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Derbes v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 20, 2017

Marie Derbes, Plaintiff,
Carolyn W. Colvin, Defendant.


          Nathaniel M. Gorton United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Marie Derbes (“Derbes” or “plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the denial of her application for disability insurance benefits by defendant, Carolyn W. Colvin (“the Commissioner”), in her official capacity as Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”). Pending before the Court are plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings to reverse the Commissioner's decision and defendant's motion for an order affirming her decision. For the reasons that follow, plaintiff's motion to reverse the Commissioner's decision will be denied and the Commissioner's motion to affirm will be allowed.

         I. Background

         A. Employment History and Alleged Disability

         Derbes was born in 1987. She resides in Weymouth, Massachusetts, is unmarried and has no children. She has a high school education and, through her school, earned a certification in cosmetology. She has not maintained full time employment since 2010, but continues to work part time, 10 hours a week, at Marshall's department store. Her main source of income is government assistance. Derbes filed an application for supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq., in June, 2013, alleging that she was disabled. Although she has been afflicted by Crohn's disease, related physical impairments and anxiety disorder since adolescence, for purposes of her application for disability insurance benefits, her alleged onset date (“AOD”) is January 1, 2011, the beginning of the first year during which she was unable to maintain full time employment.

         B. Procedural Background

         Derbes's initial application for disability benefits was filed in June, 2013. Her disability claim was predicated upon her Crohn's disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (“GERD”), anemia and severe anxiety stemming from those conditions. Her application was denied in October, 2013, and, upon reconsideration, further denied in January, 2014. She filed a request for a hearing and review of the SSA's decision. That hearing was held on April 28, 2015, before Administrative Law Judge Sean Teehan (“the ALJ”). On May 29, 2015, the ALJ found Derbes to be not disabled.

         To determine whether an individual is disabled, the ALJ determines whether

1) the claimant is engaged in “substantial gainful activity”, 2) the claimant has a severe physical or mental impairment, 3) that impairment is equivalent to an impairment enumerated in the regulations, 4) the claimant's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) meets the requirements of her previous work and 5) there are jobs that would be appropriate for the claimant given her RFC, age, education and work experience.

20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v).

         During the course of his analysis, the ALJ found that Derbes was not entitled to disability benefits. The ALJ relied upon the testimony before him during the disability hearing as well as several exhibits entered into the record which contain medical reports from doctors and health professionals.

         At step one of the analysis, the ALJ deemed that Derbes was not engaged in substantial gainful activity. At step two, the ALJ found that Derbes was severely impaired as a result of her Crohn's disease, GERD and anemia. He then found, at step three of the analysis, that her impairments did not meet or equal the severity of those enumerated in Appendix 1 of 20 C.F.R. § 404 Subpart P.

         At step four, the ALJ concluded that Derbes had a residual functional capacity (“RFC”) of “light work” with the additional restriction that she must have ready access to restroom facilities at all times during the workday. The ALJ also noted that she remains capable of performing past relevant work as a hairstylist and salon cleaner, both of which Dr. Robert Laskey (“Dr. Laskey”), the vocational expert assessing her case, determined to be light work.

         The ALJ proceeded to step five of the analysis to determine if there were jobs in the general economy that Derbes could perform. Based on plaintiff's age, education and work experience Dr. Lasky identified three suitable occupations: assembler (14, 700 jobs in Massachusetts), mailroom clerk (3, 800 jobs in Massachusetts) and office helper (5, 900 jobs in Massachusetts). Citing Dr. Lasky's testimony, the ...

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