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Hensley v. Colvin

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

November 12, 2013

DEBORAH KATE HENSLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, [1] Defendant.

Ginger J. Largen, Morefield & Largen, P.L.C., Abingdon, Virginia, for Plaintiff.

Nora Koch, Acting Regional Chief Counsel, Region III, Patricia Stewart, Assistant Regional Counsel, and Alexander L. Cristaudo, Special Assistant United States Attorney, Office of the General Counsel, Social Security Administration, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

JAMES P. JONES, District Judge.

In this Social Security disability case, I affirm the decision of the Commissioner.

I

Plaintiff Deborah Kate Hensley filed this action challenging the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner") denying her claim for a disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 401-434 (West 2011 & Supp. 2013). Jurisdiction of this court exists under 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 405(g).

Hensley filed for DIB administratively on September 16, 2008. After preliminary denials of her claims, she obtained a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ") on January 28, 2011, at which she was represented by her present counsel and during which she testified along with an impartial vocational expert.[2] On February 14, 2011, the ALJ issued a partially favorable written decision finding that Hensley became disabled under the Act on August 22, 2010, but not before that date. Hensley requested review by the Social Security Administration's Appeals Council. The Appeals Council denied her request for review on December 19, 2012, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Hensley then filed this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision.

The parties have filed cross motions for summary judgment, which have been briefed and orally argued. The case is ripe for decision.

II

Hensley claimed that she had been unable to work since July 23, 2008, based upon both exertional and nonexertional impairments, including depression, anxiety, back pain, and degenerative joint disease. At the time of the hearing before the ALJ she was 55 years old. She has a high school education and worked for thirty-five years as a senior stock keeper for a large manufacturing company.

In his written decision, the ALJ reviewed Hensley's medical history and the testimony presented at the hearing and set forth at length the reasons for her factual findings. She found that Hensley was disabled within the meaning of the Act as of August 22, 2010, by applying the Medical Vocational Guidelines (the "Grids"), see 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 2 (2013), based upon her age, but was not disabled before that date. Before that date, the ALJ found that Hensley had the residual functional capacity to perform light work, as defined by the regulations, with limitations appropriate to her impairments. Based upon the testimony of the vocational expert, the ALJ determined that Hensley had been capable of performing jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy.

It is contended in the present case that the ALJ erred in failing to evaluate all of Hensley's impairments and in placing insufficient weight on the opinion of Hensley's treating psychiatrist, Ronald S. Smith, M.D.

III

The plaintiff bears the burden of proving that she is under a disability. Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 775 (4th Cir. 1972). The standard for disability is strict. The plaintiff must show that her "physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that [she] is not only unable to do [her] previous work but cannot, considering [her] age, education, and work experience, engage in any ...


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