Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Wells v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Utah, Northern Division

February 27, 2018

TAMARA WELLS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          Dale A. Kimball, United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the court on Plaintiff's appeal of the Social Security Administration's denial of her claim for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. This court has jurisdiction to review the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). On February 14, 2018, the court held oral argument on Plaintiff's appeal. At the hearing, Plaintiff was represented by Wendy Wheeler, and Defendant was represented by Laura H. Holland. The court took the matter under advisement. Having fully considered the parties' briefs and arguments, the administrative record, and the law and facts relevant to the appeal, the court enters the following Memorandum Decision and Order remanding the case to the Social Security Administration.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed a Title II application for disability insurance benefits, alleging disability beginning September 1, 2006. The claim was initially denied on November 14, 2011, and denied upon reconsideration on January 10, 2012. Plaintiff requested a hearing and was granted a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on March 13, 2013. At the hearing before the ALJ, Plaintiff amended her disability onset date to July 8, 2011. The ALJ issued a denial of Plaintiff's claim on May 15, 2013. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's subsequent request for review, and Plaintiff appealed her case to the United States District Court of Utah.

         Based on a stipulation from the government, the court remanded the case to the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council ordered the ALJ to schedule another hearing and make findings based on evidence relevant to Plaintiff and take any further action needed to complete the administrative record. On February 23, 2016, Plaintiff appeared at a supplemental hearing before the ALJ. The ALJ again found that Plaintiff was not disabled and the Appeals Council again denied Plaintiff's request for review. Plaintiff then brought the present appeal.

         Plaintiff claimed disability based on bilateral lobulated parenchymal thinning of each kidney, urinary incontinence, hypertension, chronic fatigue syndrome, low back impairments, obesity, dementia with cognitive decline, carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic headaches, depression, and anxiety. Plaintiff had worked in accounts receivable and her employer accommodated her high blood pressure and resulting headaches by providing her with a cot at her workstation that allowed her to lie down at times throughout the work day. However, Plaintiff's employer ultimately terminated her employment because she was making too many mistakes.

         Several doctors treated Plaintiff over the years. Dr. Douglas Walker treated her for high blood pressure, bilateral hip pain, lumbago, daily headaches, and fatigue. Dr. Varma treated her for mental status change. Plaintiff had two MRI scans in 2007 showing white matter disease. The MRIs were conducted only three months apart but showed a year and a half decline in memory. In November 2011, Plaintiff was examined by a state physician, Dr. Ingebretson, who found that she was a fifty-year-old woman with Type II diabetes, a history of at least five small strokes, kidney damage, and obesity. Dr. Ingebretson also noted that her right kidney had atrophied and thought that this contributed to her high blood pressure.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         To be found “disabled” under the Social Security Act, the plaintiff must establish her “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment.” 42 U.S.C. 423(d)(1)(A). Under the Social Security Act, the Social Security Administration has established a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether an individual is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920.

         At step one, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity. Id. § 416.920(b). At step two, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has a medically determinable impairment or combination of impairments that is severe. Id. § 416.920(c). At step three, the ALJ determines whether the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments is of a severity to meet, or be considered medically equal to, the criteria of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Id. §§ 416.920(d). Before considering step four, the ALJ must determine the claimant's residual functional capacity. Id. § 416.920(e). An individual's residual functional capacity is her ability to do physical and mental work activities on a sustained basis despite limitations from her impairments. At step four, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform the requirements of her past relevant work. Id. § 416.920(f). At the last step, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is able to do any other work considering her residual functional capacity, age, education, and work experience. Id. § 416.920(g).

         ALJ'S DECISION

         The ALJ analyzed Plaintiff's claim under the five-step process. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff met the insured status requirement of the Social Security Act on June 30, 2012, and had not been engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period from her amended disability onset date of July 8, 2011, through June 30, 2012. While the first ALJ found that Plaintiff's severe impairments included mild lobulated parenchymal thinning of each kidney, hypertension, chronic fatigue syndrome, obesity, mild dementia, depression, and anxiety, the second ALJ found that Plaintiff's severe impairments included only diabetes mellitus and obesity.

         Under Step 3, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff's combination of impairments did not meet the severity of the listed impairments in the Social Security regulations. The ALJ next found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) with certain exceptions. At step four, the second ALJ's decision also varied from the first ALJ's decision. While the first ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to perform her past relevant work, the second ALJ found that Plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant work as an administrative clerk and an accounting clerk. Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the Social Security Act at any time during the relevant period.

         STANDARD ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.