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Pyzer v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

September 18, 2018

MARIE ILENE PYZER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security; Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MICHAEL D. NELSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, Marie Ilene Pyzer (“Pyzer”), seeks review of the decision by the defendant, Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the “Commissioner”), denying her application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (“SSA”). See 42 U.S.C. § 416(i) and § 423. For the reasons explained below, the Commissioner's decision will be affirmed.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On May 2, 2014, [1] Pyzer filed an application for benefits, alleging disability beginning August 31, 2012. (Tr. 150-51). Pyzer's claimed disabilities included diabetes, high blood pressure, carpal tunnel, hand/wrist problem, high cholesterol, acid reflux, digestive/metabolism problems, sleep apnea, allergies, and heart problems. (Tr. 166). Pyzer's application was initially denied on June 20, 2014, and then upon reconsideration on August 28, 2014. (Tr. 82, 93).

         Pyzer requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), which was held on February 17, 2016. (Tr. 36-71). Following the hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on March 25, 2016. (Tr. 17-31). The Appeals Council denied Pyzer's Request for Review of the ALJ's decision on May 22, 2017. (Tr. 1). Pyzer timely filed this action to set aside the Commissioner's decision. (Filing No. 1).

         FACTUAL SUMMARY

         Pyzer was 40-years old at the time of the alleged onset date of her disability, and 44-years old as of the date the ALJ issued the decision. (Tr. 21, 31). Pyzer completed two years of college in 2011 and previously worked as a sales associate, an in-home caregiver, a youth supervisor, and as a coordinator and program manager at an advocacy center. (Tr. 167-68).

         THE ALJ's DECISION

         The ALJ evaluated Pyzer's claim using the “five-step” sequential analysis prescribed by the Social Security Regulations.[2] See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). In doing so, the ALJ found that Pyzer met the insured status requirements of the SSA through December 31, 2018, and that although Pyzer had worked after the alleged disability onset, such activity did not rise to the level of substantial gainful activity. (Tr. 22).

         The ALJ found that Pyzer had severe impairments of cervical spine fusion, diabetes, carpal tunnel syndrome, and diabetic peripheral neuropathy, and non-severe impairments of earaches. The ALJ did not consider Pyzer's claims of headaches and nerve problems because there were no medical or clinical observations validating those symptoms. The ALJ found that Pyzer did not meet the burden of proof regarding specific impairments contained in the regulations. (Tr. 23).

         The ALJ considered Pyzer's obesity in terms of its possible effects on her ability to work and perform activities of daily living, and incorporated her limitations due to her obesity into her residual functional capacity (“RFC”), [3] which the ALJ formulated as follows:

[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except she is only occasionally able to stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. The claimant is able to perform work that does not require the operation of foot controls or climbing ladders. She is able to perform work that does not require reaching overhead more than occasionally. She is able to finger objects frequently. Finally, the claimant is able to perform work that does not expose her to sustained and concentrated extreme temperatures or vibration.

(Tr. 24). In making this RFC determination, the ALJ considered all of Pyzer's symptoms and the extent to which those symptoms could reasonably be accepted as consistent with the objective medical evidence and other evidence, including opinion evidence. (Tr. 24).

         The ALJ considered Pyzer's testimony that she suffered from fatigue and headaches, which caused her to stay at home about one day per week. The ALJ also considered Pyzer's testimony and reports regarding exhaustion, hand pain and grasping difficulties, pain in her feet from neuropathy, previous part-time work, improvement of her symptoms when taking he prescribed mediation, and previous statements regarding her ability to perform daily activities and to walk and stand. (Tr. 27-28). The ALJ considered and discussed the medical evidence in the record, although the ALJ did not specifically discuss Pyzer's sleep apnea. (Tr. 25-27). The ALJ found that Pyzer's medically determinable impairments could reasonably be expected to cause some of her alleged symptoms; however, the ALJ found Pyzers's statements concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of those symptoms were not consistent with other evidence in the record. (Tr. 24-25). The ALJ also considered ...


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