United States District Court, D. Nebraska
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
R. ZWART, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Felicia C. Johnson (“Johnson”), seeks review of
the decision by the defendant, Carolyn W. Colvin,
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner”), denying her application for
Supplemental Security Income disability benefits under Title
XVI of the Act. See 42 U.S.C. § 1381. After
carefully reviewing the record, the Commissioner’s
decision is affirmed.
filed for SSI disability benefits on March 16, 2012, claiming
she is unable to work due to disability and pain caused by
right carpal tunnel syndrome, a left ankle injury, and
discogenic and degenerative back disorders, and mental health
impairments caused by antisocial personality disorder and
depression. (Filing No. 8-3, at CM/ECF pp. 2-4). Counsel was
appointed on April 12, 2012. (Filing No. 8-4, at CM/ECF
p. 2). Johnson’s application was denied on May
11, 2012. (Id. at CM/ECF pp. 4-7). Plaintiff
requested reconsideration and that request was denied on June
15, 2012. (Id. at CM/ECF pp. 8-9). Plaintiff
requested a hearing. The hearing commenced on June 28, 2013
as scheduled, (Filing No. 8-2, at CM/ECF pp. 36-45), but it
was continued because Johnson had relapsed and used cocaine
three weeks prior to the hearing. The hearing reconvened on
October 22, 2013. (Id. at CM/ECF pp.
48-78). Johnson and a vocational rehabilitation
expert (“VE”) testified at the hearing.
(Id. at CM/ECF p. 47).
December 16, 2013, the ALJ issued her written decision
stating Johnson was not disabled. (Filing No. 8-2, at CM/ECF
pp. 16-27). Plaintiff timely filed a Request for Review of
the ALJ’s decision. (Id. at CM/ECF pp. 10).
After receiving additional evidence at Johnson’s
request, (Id. at CM/ECF p. 7), the Appeals Council
denied the request on February 24, 2015. (Id. at
CM/ECF p. 3). Plaintiff timely filed her appeal in
this court on April 23, 2015. (Filing No. 1).
evaluated Johnson’s claim through the five-step
sequential evaluation process to determine whether Johnson
was disabled. 20 C.F.R. §416.920(a)(4). As reflected in
her decision, the ALJ made the following findings:
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since March 16, 2012, the application date (20 CFR
416.971 et seq.).
2. The claimant has a severe impairment; specifically,
depression. (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
3. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR §§ 416.920(d), 416.925 and
4. The claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but
with the following non-exertional limitations: she is able to
understand, remember, and carry out simple, routine, and
repetitive tasks; is limited to simple work-related
decisions; is unable to respond appropriately to co-workers
and the public, though she can respond appropriately to
supervisors on an occasional basis; and her time off task can
be accommodated by the normal and customary breaks taken in a
routine work setting.
5. The claimant has no history of past relevant work (20 CFR
6. The claimant was born on March 25, 1968 and was 43 years
old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on
the date the application was filed. (20 CFR 416.963).
7. The claimant has a limited education and is able to
communicate in English. (20 CFR 416.964).
8. Transferability of job skills is not an issue because the
claimant has not performed past relevant work. (See
SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
9. Considering the claimant’s age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 416.969 and
(Filing No. 8-2, at CM/ECF pp. 18-26).
ISSUES RAISED FOR JUDICIAL REVIEW
requests judicial review of the ALJ’s decision,
asserting the following arguments support her claim for
1) The ALJ erroneously failed to recognize Johnson’s
physical impairments as “severe.”
2) The ALJ’s RFC determination is not supported by
substantial evidence based on the record as a whole.
3) The ALJ submitted an inaccurate and incomplete
hypothetical to the vocational expert, and as a result, the
ALJ cannot rely on the vocational expert’s responsive
(Filing No. 17).
RECORD AND PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE ALJ
was 44-years-old when she submitted her application for
benefits. She had completed 11 years of education, but did
not graduate from high school. Although she began classes to
earn her GED, she had not completed that program as of the
date of her hearing before the ...