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Tuggle v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division

May 3, 2019

CRYSTAL TUGGLE, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION Defendant.

          ORDER

          NANETTE K. LAUGHREY United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Crystal Tuggle appeals the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying her application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under Titles II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act. For the reasons set forth below, the decision is affirmed.

         I. Background

         Tuggle alleges that she became disabled on March 13, 2014 due to lower extremity edema, depression, migraines, fibromyalgia, tachycardia, hemachromatosis, end stage liver disease, kidney failure, NASH, urinary incontinence, severe low back and cervical pain, IBS, and sleep apnea. Tr. 77-78. She filed her initial applications for disability and supplemental security income benefits on January 12, 2015. Tr. 219. Her application was denied on May 29, 2015. Tr. 111. Tuggle filed an appeal on June 14, 2015. Tr. 118. On August 31, 2016, Tuggle appeared and testified at a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). Tr. 10. A supplemental hearing was held on May 25, 2017. Id.

         On July 26, 2017, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. Tr. 7-24. The ALJ determined that Tuggle suffered from severe impairments of liver disease, chronic pain syndrome, obstructive sleep apnea, obesity, headaches, and depression. Tr. 12. However, the ALJ found that Tuggle did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Tr. 13. The ALJ found that Tuggle had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work with the following limitations:

[T]he claimant can lift and carry ten pounds occasionally and five pounds frequently. The claimant can sit six hours in an eight-hour workday and stand and/or walk two hours in an eight-hour workday. Additionally, the claimant cannot climb, kneel, crouch, or crawl and can occasionally stoop. The claimant can frequently handle and finger, must avoid hazards such as dangerous machinery and unprotected heights. Furthermore, the claimant is capable of simple routine tasks, occasional interaction with supervisors and coworkers, but no interaction with a public work environment.

Tr. 14. Based on testimony from a vocational expert, the ALJ concluded that Tuggle could perform jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy, including work as a patcher/household appliance industry (DOT 723.687-010), lens inserter/optical goods (DOT 713.687-026), or egg processor/pharmaceutical industry (DOT 559.687-034), and therefore is not disabled. Tr. 17-18.

         The Social Security Administration's Appeals Council denied Tuggle's request for review on March 27, 2018. Tr. 1. Tuggle has exhausted her administrative remedies, and now appeals the ALJ's July 2017 decision, which constitutes the final decision of the Commissioner subject to judicial review.

         II. Legal Standard

         In reviewing the Commissioner's denial of benefits, the Court considers whether “substantial evidence in the record as a whole supports the ALJ's decision.” Milam v. Colvin, 794 F.3d 978, 983 (8th Cir. 2015). “Substantial evidence” is less than a preponderance but enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the ALJ's conclusion. Id. The Court must consider evidence that both supports and detracts from the ALJ's decision. Id. “[A]s long as substantial evidence in the record supports the Commissioner's decision, [the Court] may not reverse it.” Andrews v. Colvin, 791 F.3d 923, 928 (8th Cir. 2015) (quotation omitted); Chesser v. Berryhill, 858 F.3d 1161, 1164 (8th Cir. 2017).

         III. Discussion

         Tuggle argues that the ALJ committed legal error in his analysis at steps three and four of the sequential evaluation process, because the ALJ failed to consider whether her migraine headaches equal an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App. 1 and improperly discredited her statements concerning the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of her migraines and fatigue in formulating her RFC.

         A. Step Three

         At step three of the sequential evaluation process, an ALJ is required to analyze a claimant's medically determinable impairments to determine whether they meet or medically equal an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App. 1. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii); see also Sullivan v. Zebley, 493 U.S. 521, 530 (1990) (“For a claimant to show that his impairment matches a listing, it must meet all of the specified medical criteria. An impairment that manifests only some of those criteria, no matter how severely, does not qualify.”). There is no listing that pertains specifically to migraine headaches. Accordingly, the ALJ did not err in determining that Tuggle's migraine headaches did not meet a listing. But Tuggle contends that the ALJ committed legal error by failing to “consider whether [her] headaches equaled Listing 11.03.” Doc. 17 (Plaintiff's Brief), p. 7. SSA National Q&A Tracking number 09-036 (posted Dec. 15, 2009) identifies listing 11.03 (Epilepsy - ...


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