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Kortney Rorick v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec

September 18, 2012

KORTNEY RORICK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMM'R OF SOC. SEC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Glenn T. Suddaby, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court, in this Social Security action filed by Kortney Rorick ("Plaintiff") against the Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or "the Commissioner") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), are the parties' cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings. (Dkt. Nos. 14, 18.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is granted in part and denied in part, and Plaintiff's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

Plaintiff was born on October 17, 1987. She earned a GED and has completed no more than two semesters of college. During her life, Plaintiff has worked as a cashier, food service worker, and grocery bagger. Generally, her alleged disability consists of anxiety, depression, migraine headaches, a knee impairment, borderline intelligence, and personality disorder. Her alleged disability onset date is September 30, 2006, and her date last insured is March 31, 2008.

B. Procedural History

On September 8, 2008, Plaintiff applied for Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. Plaintiff's application was initially denied, after which she timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("the ALJ"). On April 12, 2010, Plaintiff appeared pro se before the ALJ, Edward I. Pitts. (T. 25-61.) On June 23, 2010, the ALJ issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act. (T. 12-24.) On December 22, 2010, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (T. 1-5.) Thereafter, Plaintiff timely sought judicial review in this Court.

C. The ALJ's Decision

Generally, in his decision, the ALJ made the following five findings of fact and conclusions of law. (T. 14-20.) First, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date. (T. 14.) Second, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's depression, anxiety and migraine headaches are severe impairments, but that her alleged learning disability, post traumatic stress disorder and asthma are not severe. (T. 14-15.) Third, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's mental impairments did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments located in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpart P, Appendix. 1. (The ALJ considered listing 12.04. T. 15.) Fourth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, but is limited to performing simple, one-two step tasks. (T. 15-19.) Fifth, and finally, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has no past relevant work, and that there are jobs that exist in the national economy that she can perform. (T. 19-20.)

II. THE PARTIES' BRIEFINGS ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION

A. Plaintiff's Arguments

In support of her motion for judgment on the pleadings, Plaintiff makes the following four arguments. First, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in (a) failing to consider whether Plaintiff's knee impairment, borderline intelligence or personality disorders were severe, (b) failing to consider or find that Plaintiff's personality disorder met or equaled Listing 12.06 or 12.08, and (c) failing to consider the functional limitations caused by Plaintiff's migraine headaches. (Dkt. No. 14 at 10-18 [Plf.'s Mem. of Law].) Second, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in failing to properly develop the record. (Id. at 18-19.) Third, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to properly consider the opinion of her treating physician, Darlene Denzien, D.O. (Id. at 19-20.) Fourth, and finally, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ did not properly assess her credibility. (Id. at 20-24.)

B. Defendant's Arguments

In response (and in support of his cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings), Defendant makes the following five arguments. First, Defendant argues that (a) the ALJ properly determined that the record did not support a finding that Plaintiff's alleged knee impairment was severe, (b) there is no evidence of Plaintiff's alleged personality disorder in the record, and (c) although the ALJ did not find that Plaintiff's borderline intelligence was a severe impairment, he properly considered her psychological and intelligence testing when assessing Plaintiff's functional limitations and concluded that her borderline intelligence did not preclude her from performing basic work activities. (Dkt. No. 18 at 5-13 [Def.'s Mem. of Law].)

Second, Defendant argues that the ALJ properly concluded that there is no evidence in the record that Plaintiff had an impairment that meets or equals either Listing 12.06 or 12.08. (Id. at 13-17.)

Third, Defendant argues that the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff's treating physician records, and concluded that Plaintiff's migraines do not cause additional, non-exertional limitations and are consistent with her ability to perform simple work. Further, Defendant argues that the report from Plaintiff's treating physician, which was submitted to the Appeals Council, is not entitled to weight because it is inconsistent with the record evidence. (Id. at 17-19.)

Fourth, Defendant argues that, contrary to Plaintiff's assertion, the ALJ properly developed the record: he considered the records of Plaintiff's treating physician and the records of other examining physicians, extensively questioned Plaintiff at the hearing, and noted no obvious gaps in the record. (Id. at 19-20.)

Fifth, and finally, Defendant argues that the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff's subjective contentions of pain and functional impairments compared to the objective evidence in the record before concluding that Plaintiff ...


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