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Lauer v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Utah

February 8, 2018

DORINDA LAUER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION & ORDER

          DUSTIN B. PEAD United State/Magistrate Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Dorinda Lauer (Plaintiff or Ms. Lauer) seeks judicial review of the decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner) denying her claims for disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI) payments under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (Act). See 42 U.S.C. §405(g). Now, after careful review of the record, the parties' briefs, and arguments presented at the January 17, 2018 hearing, the court affirms the Commissioner's decision and denies Ms. Lauer's appeal.

         In early 2013, Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI, alleging she became disabled in November 2012[1] (see ECF No. 8, Certified Administrative Transcript (Tr.) 40, 205-18). Ms. Lauer alleged disability due to a number of conditions including a back injury, arthritis, and chronic pain (Tr. 245). Following an April 2016 hearing, at which Ms. Lauer and her attorney appeared and testimony was given by both Plaintiff and a vocational expert (Tr. 57-76), Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Jason Crowell denied Plaintiff's applications in his June 1, 2016 decision (Tr. 37-56).The ALJ's decision followed the familiar five-step sequential evaluation process set forth under the regulations and determined, while limited by her impairments, Plaintiff could still perform certain unskilled jobs and was not disabled as defined by the Act (Tr. 42-51). See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4).

         The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 1-6, 32-36), making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of judicial review. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481, 422.210(a). This appeal followed and Plaintiff filed her petition for review before this court on June 9, 2017 (ECF No. 3).

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Ms. Lauer stopped working in November 2012 due to exacerbation of her chronic back pain (Tr. 63, 64, 327). Prior to that time, she was a supervising manager at PetSmart for 15 years (Tr. 63, 327).

         The record reflects that Ms. Lauer saw a chiropractor for neck and back pain in late 2012 and early 2013 (Tr. 332-411). Plaintiff also saw family practitioner Michael Woolman, M.D., for regular health needs, maintenance of her hypertension/mild diabetes mellitus, and for complaints of fibromyalgia, back pain, and joint pain (see, e.g., Tr. 434, 553-62, 575-604).

         The record before the ALJ also contained opinions from:

• Dr. Woolman (Tr. 455-58 (May 2012), 539-40 (January 2015), 563 (October 2015), 542-50 (January 2016))
• Physical therapist Ernie Chavez (Tr. 435-44 (February 2014))
• Consultative examining physician Joseph Nelson, D.O. (Tr. 426-33 (June 2013))
• Consultative examining psychologist Richard Grow, Ed.D. (Tr. ...

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