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Careccia v. Saul

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

October 29, 2019

TERRI LYNN CARECCIA, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration; Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Cheryl R. Zwart United States Magistrate Judge

         This is an action for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration that the plaintiff, Terri Lynn Careccia, is not disabled. Careccia seeks reversal of the decision of Andrew M. Saul, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (Commissioner). Careccia argues the Commissioner's decision is “contrary to law and not supported by substantial evidence.” (Filing No. 14). The Commissioner seeks affirmance of the decision, asserting that Careccia “had a fair hearing and full administrative consideration in accordance with applicable statutes and regulations, and substantial evidence on the record as a whole supports the Commissioner's decision.” (Filing No. 17).

         For the reasons stated below, the Commissioner's decision will be affirmed.

         I. Procedural Background

         Careccia filed for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits on November 17, 2015, alleging disability beginning September 16, 2015. (Filing No. 10-2, at CM/ECF p. 11). The claim was initially denied on June 20, 2016, and again upon reconsideration on September 28, 2016. (Id.). Careccia requested a hearing, which was held on April 13, 2018 before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Id.).

         On August 1, 2018, the ALJ issued a written decision denying Careccia's claims for benefits. (Filing No. 10-2, at CM/ECF p. 8). Careccia filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision. The Appeals Council denied the request on February 16, 2019. (Filing No. 10-2, at CM/ECF pp. 2-4). Careccia filed her appeal in this court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 405(g), on April 4, 2019. (Filing No. 1).

         II. The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ evaluated Careccia's claim through the five-step evaluation process described in 20 CFR 404.1520(a) to determine whether Careccia was disabled under sections 216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act. As reflected in his decision, the ALJ made the following findings:

1. The claimant last met the insured status requirement of the Social Security Act on June 30, 2018. (Filing No. 10-2, at CM/ECF p. 13).
2. The claimant did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the period from her alleged onset date of September 16, 2015, through her date last insured of June 30, 2018 (20 CFR 404.1571 et. seq.). (Filing No. 10-2, at CM/ECF p. 13).
3. Through the date last insured, the claimant had the following severe impairments: fibromyalgia, depression, and hearing loss (20 CFR 404.1520(c)). (Filing No. 10-2, at CM/ECF p. 14).
4. Through the date last insured, the claimant did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526). (Filing No. 10-2, at CM/ECF p. 15).
5. Through the date last insured, the claimant has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a). She is able to perform work that requires no climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, or crawling; and no more than occasional climbing of ramps and stairs, balancing, kneeling, stooping, and crouching. The claimant can perform work that requires no concentrated exposure to temperature extremes, vibration, humidity, loud noise, or hazards such as unprotected heights, and she is able to perform work that requires no contact with the general public and limited contact with co-workers. (Filing No. 10-2, at CM/ECF p. 17).
6. Through the date last insured, the claimant was capable of performing past relevant work as a data entry clerk and accounting clerk. This work did not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the claimant's residual function capacity (20 CFR 404.1565). (Filing No. 10-2, at CM/ECF p. 22).
7. The claimant was not under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, at any time from September 16, 2015, the alleged onset date, through June 30, 2018, the date last insured (20 CFR 404.1520(f)). (Filing No. 10-2, at CM/ECF p. 23).

         III. Issues Raised for Judicial Review

         Careccia requests judicial review of the ALJ's decision, asserting the following arguments support her claim for reversal:

1. The ALJ erred by failing to analyze the opinion evidence in accordance with the regulations, agency policy, and Eighth Circuit precedent.
2. The ALJ's credibility assessment is deficient generally as a result of the errors described above; and specifically so in that the ALJ failed to consider Plaintiff's stellar work history.

(Filing No. 15, at CM/ECF p. 1).

         IV. The Record and Proceedings Before the ALJ

         Careccia was an individual of advanced age, with a high school education and past relevant work as a data entry clerk and accounting clerk when she submitted her application for benefits. She claimed mental and physical conditions which limited her ability to work, including: 1) hearing loss in her right ear; 2) fibromyalgia; 3) arthritis; 4) high blood pressure; 5) GERD; 6) heart murmur; 7) vision issues; 8) tendonitis in right wrist; and 9) Type 2 diabetes. (Filing No. 10-6, at CM/ECF p. 15). In addition, there was testimony at the hearing ...


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