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Clarke v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. California

October 24, 2017

MELANIE JOY CLARKE, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.[1]

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF NOS. 14, 15]

          Barry Ted Moskowitz, Chief Judge.

         Plaintiff Melanie Joy Clarke seeks review of the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of her application for disability insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income. The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 14, 15.) For the reasons discussed below, the Court will deny Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and grant Defendant's motion for summary judgment.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On May 23, 2012, Plaintiff filed two applications with the Social Security Administration, one seeking disability and disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, and a second seeking supplemental security income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. Administrative Record (AR) 216-21, 222-27. In both applications, she alleged she was disabled because she suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, anemia, asthma, acid reflux disease, sickle cell trait, depression, anxiety, severe insomnia, type 2 diabetes, neuropathy, blood clots on her lungs, degenerative bone disease, and constipation. AR 254. Plaintiff was born on September 24, 1970. AR 216. Her alleged disability onset date was June 1, 2001. Id.

         Plaintiff's claim was denied initially on October 30, 2012, and upon reconsideration on June 11, 2013. AR 107-08, 125-26. On July 30, 2013, Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). AR 147-48. A hearing was held by ALJ Keith Dietterle on October 2, 2014, at which Plaintiff was represented by an attorney. AR 50-76, 183-202. At the hearing, a medical expert and a vocational expert testified. AR 50-76, 203-07.

         On November 22, 2014, the ALJ issued a written decision denying Plaintiff's claim for benefits. AR 31-44. Plaintiff filed a request for review with the Appeals Council. Plaintiff's request for review was denied on April 29, 2016, at which point the ALJ's denial of her claim became the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”). AR 1-5.

         On June 23, 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant action seeking review of the Commissioner's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Commissioner filed an answer, along with the administrative record, on September 26, 2016. (ECF Nos. 11, 12.) In accordance with this Court's briefing schedule, on December 12, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 14.) On January 9, 2017, the Commissioner filed a cross-motion for summary judgment and response in opposition to Plaintiff's summary judgment motion. (ECF Nos. 15, 16.) Plaintiff did not file a response to the Commissioner's cross-motion/ opposition.

         II. ALJ'S FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

         The ALJ conducted the five-step sequential analysis set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1530.[2]

         At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 1, 2001, the alleged disability onset date. AR 33. At step two, he found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus, asthma, anemia, obesity, dysthymic disorder, personality disorder, somatoform disorder, anxiety disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Id.

         At step three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. AR 34-36. In making this determination, he found that Plaintiff had “moderate difficulties” in “concentration, persistence or pace.” AR 35.

         Next, the ALJ found that Plaintiff “has the residual functional capacity [(RFC)] to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), ” with the exception of a number of physical limitations, and that “she is capable of performing simple, routine tasks in a non-public setting.” AR 36.

         At step four, the ALJ found Plaintiff was unable to perform past relevant work as a retail sales clerk. At step five, based on the testimony of the vocational expert, and considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ found Plaintiff would be able to perform jobs existing in the national economy, including the positions of a mail clerk (DOT No. 209.687-026), with 70, 000 positions nationwide, and marker (DOT 209.587-034), with 213, 000 positions nationwide. AR 42-43. Accordingly, he concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act and denied her claim.

         III. ...


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