United States District Court, D. Connecticut
CHERYL A. MONAHAN, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Defendant.
RULING AFFIRMING DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER OF
Jeffrey Alker Meyer, United States District Judge.
Cheryl A. Monahan asserts that she is disabled and unable to
work due to several conditions. She filed this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking review of a final
decision of defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner
of Social Security, who denied Monahan's application for
supplemental security income. For the reasons set forth
below, I will deny Monahan's motion to reverse the
Commissioner's decision (Doc. #25), and grant the motion
to affirm the Commissioner's decision (Doc. #28).
to the transcripts provided by the Commissioner. See
Doc. #20-1 through Doc. #20-15. Monahan filed an application
for supplemental security income on October 22, 2014,
alleging a disability beginning on August 15, 2013. Doc.
#20-7 at 3. Monahan's claim was initially denied in
February of 2015, id. at 18, and denied again upon
reconsideration on September 11, 2015, Doc. #20-8, at 14-16.
She then filed a request for a hearing on September 21, 2015.
Id. at 17-18.
appeared and testified at a hearing in New Haven before
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Deirdre R. Horton on December
2, 2016. Doc. #20-6 at 2. Monahan was represented by counsel.
Ibid. On March 22, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision
concluding that Monahan was not disabled within the meaning
of the Social Security Act. See Doc. #20-3 at 24.
The Appeals Council denied Monahan's request for review
on December 6, 2017. Id. at 2. Monahan then filed
this case on February 2, 2018. Doc. #1.
qualify as disabled, a claimant must show that she is unable
“to engage in any substantial gainful activity by
reason of any medically determinable physical or mental
impairment which . . . has lasted or can be expected to last
for a continuous period of not less than 12 months, ”
and “the impairment must be ‘of such severity
that [the claimant] is not only unable to do his previous
work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy.'”
Robinson v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 781 F.3d
42, 45 (2d Cir. 2015) (quoting 42 U.S.C. §§
423(d)(1)(A), 423(d)(2)(A)). “[W]ork exists in the
national economy when it exists in significant numbers either
in the region where [a claimant] live[s] or in several other
regions of the country, ” and “when there is a
significant number of jobs (in one or more occupations)
having requirements which [a claimant] [is] able to meet with
his physical or mental abilities and vocational
qualifications.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.966(a)-(b);
see also Kennedy v. Astrue, 343 Fed.Appx.
719, 722 (2d Cir. 2009).
evaluate a claimant's disability, and to determine
whether she qualifies for benefits, the agency engages in the
following five-step process:
First, the Commissioner considers whether the claimant is
currently engaged in substantial gainful activity. Where the
claimant is not, the Commissioner next considers whether the
claimant has a “severe impairment” that
significantly limits her physical or mental ability to do
basic work activities. If the claimant suffers such an
impairment, the third inquiry is whether, based solely on
medical evidence, the claimant has an impairment that is
listed [in the so-called “Listings”] ¶ 20
C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1. If the claimant has a
listed impairment, the Commissioner will consider the
claimant disabled without considering vocational factors such
as age, education, and work experience; the Commissioner
presumes that a claimant who is afflicted with a listed
impairment is unable to perform substantial gainful activity.
Assuming the claimant does not have a listed impairment, the
fourth inquiry is whether, despite the claimant's severe
impairment, she has the residual functional capacity to
perform her past work. Finally, if the claimant is unable to
perform her past work, the burden then shifts to the
Commissioner to determine whether there is other work which
the claimant could perform.
Cage v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 692 F.3d 118,
122-23 (2d Cir. 2012) (alteration in original) (citation
omitted); see also20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4)(i)-(v). In applying this framework, an ALJ may
find a claimant to be disabled or not disabled at a
particular step and may make a decision without proceeding to
the next step. See20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4).
The claimant bears the burden of proving the case at Steps
One through Four; at Step Five, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner to demonstrate that there is other work that the
claimant can perform. See McIntyre v.
Colvin, 758 F.3d 146, 150 (2d Cir. 2014).
concluded that Monahan was not disabled within the meaning of
the Social Security Act. At Step One, the ALJ concluded
Monahan had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since
October 22, 2014, the date of her application for benefits.
Doc. #20-3 at 14. At Step Two, the ALJ found that Monahan
suffered from the following severe impairments:
“bilateral Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Mild;
Osteoarthritis; Depressive Disorder; and Post-Traumatic
Stress Disorder.” Ibid. The ALJ also took note
of Monahan's history of drug addiction and alcoholism,
but did not find that history to be a severe impairment.
Id. at 15.
Three, the ALJ determined that Monahan did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
Ibid. The ALJ considered Monahan's physical
impairments as well as her mental impairments. Ibid.
to Step Four, the ALJ then found that Monahan “had the
residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined
in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except the claimant is limited to
limited lifting and carrying to 10 pounds. She is also
limited to occasional ramps and stairs, ladders, balancing,
stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling. The claimant is
limited to frequent handling and fingering. She is also
limited to simple routine tasks. She should work in an
environment with only minor changes in routine. The claimant
works best on tasks alone, rather than in groups or teams and
she should have only occasional interaction with the general
public.” Id. at 16-17. At Step Four, the ALJ
concluded that Monahan had no past relevant work that she
could be capable of performing. Id. at 22.
Five, after considering Monahan's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity
(“RFC”), the ALJ concluded that there were jobs
that Monahan could perform that existed in significant
numbers in the national economy. Id. at 23. In
reaching this conclusion, the ALJ relied on the testimony of
a vocational expert. Ibid. The ALJ ...