Butler-Ball v. Commissioner of Social Security
Memorandum Opinion and Order. The undersigned affirms the ALJ's decision. Substantial evidence supports the finding of the ALJ that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform her past relevant work as a dispatcher, and therefore, was not disabled. Hence, she is not entitled to DIB and SSI. Related documents 1 . Signed by Magistrate Judge George J. Limbert on 3/2/2012. (H,LA)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL
GEORGE J. LIMBERT
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
Plaintiff requests judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security denying Daisy Butler-Ball Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security
Income (SSI.) The Plaintiff asserts that the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) erred in his November
2, 2009 decision in finding that Plaintiff was not disabled because she could perform her past
relevant work as a dispatcher which she performed after her onset date. (Tr. 7-16). The Court finds
that substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s decision for the following reasons:
Butler-Ball applied for disability insurance benefits and supplementary security income in
2006, alleging a disability onset date of June 9, 2006. (Tr.71-79). Butler-Ball claimed that she was
unable to work because of neuropathy in her feet. (Tr. 96). Her application was denied initially and
upon reconsideration. (Tr. 42-43). The ALJ denied Butler-Ball’s claim, and the Appeals Council
subsequently denied review. (Tr.1-16). Butler-Ball now seeks judicial review of the ALJ’s decision
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sections 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).
STATEMENTS OF FACTS
At the time of the administrative hearing, Butler-Ball was 53 years old. She worked as an
airline customer service supervisor between August 1985 and June 2006. (Tr. 96-97, 102-04). On
May 26, 2008, Butler-Ball began working as an aircraft dispatcher. (Tr. 25-30, 137). She worked
as a dispatcher until November 23, 2008. (Tr. 25-30, 137). Butler-Ball returned to work as a
dispatcher between February 7, 2009 and May 8, 2009. (Tr. 25-30, 137). She performed the
dispatcher position at the sedentary level. (Tr. 33, 137).
An administrative hearing was held on July 1, 2009. (Tr. 17-41). During the hearing, the
ALJ presented the vocational expert with a hypothetical individual who shared Butler-Ball’s
vocational profile and was capable of performing a range of sedentary work. (Tr. 35). The
vocational expert testified that the hypothetical individual could perform Butler-Ball’s past relevant
work as a dispatcher. (Tr. 35).
The ALJ determined that Butler-Ball suffered from tibial tendon insufficiency and obesity.
(Tr. 12). Her condition , however, did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment. (Tr. 13).
The ALJ found that, despite her impairments, Butler-Ball retained the residual functional capacity
to perform a range of sedentary work. (Tr. 13). The ALJ concluded that Butler-Ball was not
disabled because she could perform her past relevant work as a dispatcher. (Tr. 15)
SUMMARY OF TESTIMONY
At the time of the administrative hearing, Butler-Ball testified that she had a twelfth grade
education. (Tr. 23). Butler-Ball testified that she became employed with Northwest Airlines in
1985. In 1988, she started working the luggage counter and the gates. (Tr. 23). This required her
to be on her feet all day long. (Tr. 24). Due to the neuropathy in her feet and a ruptured tendon,
Butler-Ball stopped working June 9, 2006. (Tr. 23).
Butler-Ball testified that she returned to work May 26, 2008 and worked through November
23, 2008. She went back to work again February 7, 2009 and continued working through May 8,
2009. (Tr. 26). During both those periods, Butler-Ball was working in the hub control center as a
dispatcher. She performed her job in the seated position. (Tr. 30).
Thereafter, Kevin Yi, a vocational expert, testified at the administrative hearing. (Tr. 29).
Mr. Yi was asked to describe the work Butler-Ball performed since 1984. (Tr. 31-32). Mr. Yi
testified that Butler-Ball’s last job was a dispatcher, which is generally performed at the light
exertional level, but Butler-Ball performed the job at the sedentary level. (Tr. 33). Butler-Ball was
a supervisor for customer service which is performed at the light exertional level and is a semiskilled job. She also worked as a luggage checker, which is performed at the medium exertional
level and is also a semi-skilled job. (Tr. 34). Mr. Yi testified that the acquired skills from the
customer service supervisor and luggage checker jobs do not transfer to sedentary work. (Tr. 36).
The ALJ propounded a hypothetical question in which he described an individual who was
fifty-three years old, a high school graduate and limited to sedentary work. Mr. Yi agreed that such
an individual would be unable to perform the customer service supervisor or luggage checker job.
However, such an individual would be capable of performing the dispatcher job as Butler-Ball
actually performed it. (Tr. 35).
STEPS TO EVALUATE ENTITLEMENT TO SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS
An ALJ must proceed through the required sequential steps for evaluating entitlement to
DIB and SSI. These steps are:
An individual who is working and engaging in substantial gainful activity
will not be found to be “disabled” regardless of medical findings (20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(b) and 416.920(b) (1992));
An individual who does not have a “severe impairment” will not be found to
be “disabled” (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c) (1992));
If an individual is not working and is suffering from a severe impairment
which meets the duration requirement, see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1509 and
416.909 (1992), and which meets or is equivalent to a listed impairment in
20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, a finding of disabled will be made
without consideration of vocational factors (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d) and
If an individual is capable of performing the kind of work he or she has done
in the past, a finding of “not disabled” must be made (20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(e) and 416.920(e) (1992));
If an individual's impairment is so severe as to preclude the performance of
the kind of work he or she has done in the past, other factors including age,
education, past work experience and residual functional capacity must be
considered to determine if other work can be performed (20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(f) and 416.920(f) (1992)).
Hogg v. Sullivan, 987 F.2d 328, 332 (6th Cir. 1992). The claimant has the burden to go forward with
the evidence in the first four steps and the Commissioner has the burden in the fifth step to show that
alternate jobs in the economy are available to the claimant, considering her age, education, past work
experience and residual functional capacity. See, Moon v. Sullivan, 923 F.2d 1175, 1181 (6th Cir.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under the Social Security Act, the ALJ weighs the evidence, resolves any conflicts, and
makes a determination of disability. This Court’s review of such a determination is limited in scope
by Section 205 of the Act, which states that the “findings of the Commissioner of Social Security
as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive.” 42 U.S.C. Section 405(g).
Therefore, this Court is limited to determining whether substantial evidence supports the
Commissioner’s findings and whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards. See,
Abbott v. Sullivan, 905 F.2d 918, 922 (6th Cir. 1990). The Court cannot reverse the decision of an
ALJ, even if substantial evidence exists in the record that would have supported an opposite
conclusion, so long as substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s conclusion. See, Walters v.
Commissioner of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir.1997). Substantial evidence is more than a
scintilla of evidence, but less than a preponderance. See, Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401
(1971). It is evidence that a reasonable mind would accept as adequate to support the challenged
conclusion. See, Id.; Walters, 127 F.3d 525, 532(6th Cir. 1997). Substantiality is based upon the
record taken as a whole. See, Houston v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 736 F.2d 365 (6th
Plaintiff, Butler-Ball raises one issue on appeal:
Whether substantial evidence supports the Commissioner’s decision that Ms.
Butler-Ball is not disabled when Ms. Butler-Ball’s work as a dispatcher should
not have been found to be past relevant work until the date Ms. Butler-Ball
completed her nine month trial work period.
Butler-Ball does not dispute the ALJ’s listing analysis or residual functional capacity
finding. (Butler-Ball Br. 2). Instead, Butler-Ball contends that the ALJ erroneously concluded she
could perform her past relevant work as a dispatcher at Step Four of the sequential evaluation
process. (Butler-Ball Br. 2-6). In support, Butler-Ball argues that the dispatcher position “cannot
be considered past relevant work” because “this work was performed well after the alleged
onset date of June 9, 2006 and after the application date of November 17, 2006.” (Butler-Ball Br.
However, an ALJ is not limited to considering work that was performed prior to the alleged
onset date in assessing her past relevant work. A claimant’s work experience is relevant to
showing the type of work that she might be expected to do “when it was done within the last 15
years, lasted long enough for [the claimant] to learn to do it, and was substantial gainful activity.”
20 C.F.R. Sections 404.1560(b)(1), 404.1565(a). The “15-year period is the 15 years prior to the
time of adjudication at the initial, reconsideration, or higher appellate level.” SSR 82-62, 1982 WL
31386, at *2 (1982). Therefore, the relevant 15-year time period runs backward from the date of
adjudication, not from the alleged onset date.
Accordingly, the ALJ correctly considered Butler-Ball’s dispatcher position as past relevant
work. (Tr. 15). See Packham v. Astrue, 762 F. Supp. 2d 1094, 1106 (N.D. Ill. 2011). Since the
ALJ correctly concluded that Butler-Ball was not entitled to disability benefits, the undersigned will
not consider the contention that the dispatcher job should have been construed as a form of “trial
work.” See 20 C.F.R. Section 404.1560(b)(3); see also 20 C.F.R. Section 404.1592(d)(1).
Based upon a review of the record and law, the undersigned affirms the ALJ’s decision.
Substantial evidence supports the finding of the ALJ that Plaintiff retained the residual functional
capacity to perform her past relevant work as a dispatcher, and, therefore, was not disabled.
Hence, she is not entitled to DIB and SSI.
DATE: March 2, 2012
/s/George J. Limbert
GEORGE J. LIMBERT
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?