United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia, Elkins
TAMMY S. MASSEY, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
W. TRUMBLE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
case arises from the denial of Plaintiff Tammy S.
Massey's (“Plaintiff”) Title II application
for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and Title XVI application for
supplemental security income (“SSI”). After
Plaintiff's applications proceeded through the
administrative process, a United States Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”), Karl Alexander, concluded that
Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act. Plaintiff's request for review by the
Appeals Counsel was denied, making the ALJ's decision the
final decision of Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill
(“Commissioner”), the acting Commissioner of
Social Security. Now, Plaintiff seeks judicial review of the
Commissioner's decision. Because the Commissioner's
final decision to deny Plaintiff's claim for DIB and SSI
contains no legal error and is supported by substantial
evidence, the undersigned reports and recommends that
Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 16] be
DENIED and Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment [ECF No. 19] be GRANTED.
about April 16, 2014, Plaintiff filed a claim for DIB, and on
or about July 10, 2014, Plaintiff filed a claim for SSI. R.
59, 157. On both applications, Plaintiff alleged that her
disability began on September 28, 2013. Id.
Plaintiff's claim for DIB was initially denied on June
27, 2014. R. 86. Plaintiff's claims for DIB and SSI were
denied upon reconsideration on August 8, 2014. R. 94, 97.
After these denials, Plaintiff filed a written request for a
hearing. R. 100. On June 15, 2016, a video hearing was held
before the ALJ. R. 37. The ALJ presided over the hearing from
Morgantown, West Virginia. Id. Plaintiff,
represented by Ambria Adkins, Esq., appeared and testified
from Wheeling, West Virginia. Id. Larry Ostrowski, a
vocational expert, also appeared and testified at the
hearing. Id. On February 28, 2017, the ALJ issued a
decision concluding that Plaintiff was not disabled within
the meaning of the Social Security Act. R. 28. On February
20, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision
of the Commissioner. R. 1.
April 12, 2018, Plaintiff, through counsel, Jan Dils, Esq.,
filed a Complaint in this Court to obtain judicial review of
the Commissioner's final decision pursuant to Section
205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Compl., ECF No. 1. The Commissioner, through
counsel Helen Campbell Altmeyer, Assistant United States
Attorney, filed her Answer and the Administrative Record of
the proceedings on June 21, 2018. Answer, ECF No. 9; Admin.
R., ECF No. 10. Soon thereafter, Plaintiff and the
Commissioner filed their Motions for Summary Judgment and
supporting briefs. Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 16;
Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 19. Neither party filed a
response. Oral argument on the parties' motions was held
before the undersigned on November 7, 2018.
matter is now before the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge for a Report and Recommendation to the District Judge
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule of
Civil Procedure 9.02(a). Having reviewed the parties'
motions and the administrative record, and having heard the
parties' oral argument, the undersigned now issues the
following Report and Recommendation.
was born on March 30, 1971 and was forty-three years old at
the time she filed her claims for DIB and SSI. R. 40, 59,
157. She is 5'7” and weighs approximately 247
pounds. R. 59. Plaintiff has never been married, but she
lives in a house with Michael Runewicz and her two daughters.
R. 157, 200. Plaintiff and Mr. Runewicz do not present
themselves as husband and wife. Id. Plaintiff
graduated high school and completed a 15-month medical
secretary certificate program. R. 40. She has never worked as
a medical secretary. Id. Prior to the alleged onset
date of disability, Plaintiff worked for fifteen years at
Family Dollar as a full-time assistant manager. R. 41.
Plaintiff alleges that she is permanently and totally
disabled due to “diabetes, migraines, degenerative disc
disease, knee pain-degenerating, anemia, healy [sic]
tendonitis in her left foot, and psoriatic arthritis in both
hands.” R. 59, 68, 76, 86.
accordance with the Court's Order Directing Filing of
Briefs, the parties were required to produce a stipulation of
facts in order to provide the Court with a chronology in
narrative form of Plaintiff's relevant medical history.
ECF No. 12, at 2. Accordingly, the undersigned relies upon
those stipulated facts throughout this report and
recommendation and will not reproduce them herein.
See ECF No. 16-1, at 2-5.
THE FIVE-STEP EVALUATION PROCESS
disabled under the Social Security Act, a claimant must meet
the following criteria:
[The] individual . . . [must have a] physical or mental
impairment or impairments . . . of such severity that he is
not only unable to do his previous work but cannot,
considering his age, education, and work experience, engage
in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in
the national economy, regardless of whether such work exists
in the immediate area in which he lives, or whether a
specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be
hired if he applied for work. . . . ‘[W]ork which
exists in the national economy' means work which exists
in significant numbers either in the region where such
individual lives or in several regions of the country.
42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B). The
Social Security Administration uses the following five-step
sequential evaluation process to determine whether a claimant
(i) At the first step, we consider your work activity, if
any. If you are doing substantial gainful activity, we will
find that you are not disabled.
(ii) At the second step, we consider the medical severity of
your impairment(s). If you do not have a severe medically
determinable physical or mental impairment that meets the
duration requirement [of twelve months] . . . or a
combination of impairments that is severe and meets the
duration requirement, we will find that you are not disabled.
(iii) At the third step, we also consider the medical
severity of your impairment(s). If you have an impairment(s)
that meets or equals one of our listings . . . and meets the
duration requirement, we will find that you are disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a). “If
your impairment(s) does not meet or equal a listed
impairment, we will assess and make a finding about your
residual functional capacity [(“RFC”)] based on
all the relevant medical and other evidence in your case
record, as explained ...