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McGlothlin v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

August 27, 2013



KENNETH S. McHARGH, Magistrate Judge.

This case is before the Magistrate Judge pursuant to the consent of the parties. (Doc. 15). The issue before the undersigned is whether the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner") denying Plaintiff Christopher McGlothlin's application for a Period of Disability and Disability Insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i) and 423, is supported by substantial evidence and, therefore, conclusive.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner.


On February 24, 2009, Plaintiff Christopher McGlothlin ("Plaintiff") applied for a Period of Disability and Disability Insurance benefits. (Tr. 141-42). Plaintiff alleged he became disabled on July 31, 2007, due to suffering from post traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD"), bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder. (Tr. 141, 231). Plaintiff's Disability Insurance benefits expired on June 30, 2010. (Tr. 185). The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's application initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 85-87, 92-94). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge to contest the denial of his application. (Tr. 90-91). The administration granted Plaintiff's request and scheduled a hearing. (Tr. 97-100).

On January 31, 2011, Administrative Law Judge Julia Terry (the "ALJ") convened a hearing via video to evaluate Plaintiff's application. (Tr. 60-81). Plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and gave testimony from Cleveland, Ohio, (Tr. 41), and the ALJ presided over the hearing from St. Louis, Missouri. ( Id. ). A vocational expert, Barbara Burk, also appeared and testified at the proceeding. (Tr. 76-81).

On February 25, 2011, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled. (T. 41-54). After applying the five-step sequential analysis, [1] the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the ability to perform work which existed in significant numbers in the national economy. ( Id. ). Subsequently, Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision from the Appeals Council of the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. (Tr. 36-37). However, the council denied Plaintiff's request making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-3). Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).


Plaintiff, born on September 7, 1977, was 29 years old as of his alleged disability onset date. (Tr. 64). Accordingly, he was considered as a "younger person" for Social Security purposes. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c). Plaintiff was enrolled in special education classes during school and earned his diploma. (Tr. 65). His past work experience includes work as a cab driver, dishwasher, pizza delivery person, and factory worker. ( Id.; Tr. 76).


The ALJ made the following findings of fact and conclusions of law in his application of the five-step analysis. At step one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date of July 31, 2007. (Tr. 43). At step two, the ALJ held Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, mixed personality disorder, drug and/or alcohol addiction and obesity. (Tr. 44). As a result, at step three, the ALJ concluded that these impairments, including Plaintiff's substance abuse, met Listing 12.04 and 12.09 of the Listings of Impairments codified in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the "listings"). (Tr. 44-45).

In light of this finding, the ALJ examined the effect Plaintiff's substance abuse had on his other impairments. The ALJ found that even if Plaintiff ceased abusing substances, his other severe impairments would remain. However, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's impairments would not meet or medically equal listing level if Plaintiff stopped abusing drugs and/or alcohol. (Tr. 46). Accordingly, at step four, the ALJ held that Plaintiff would retain the ability to perform a reduced range of medium work if he were to stop abusing drugs and alcohol. (Tr. 47-51).

Furthermore, at step four, the ALJ ruled that absent substance abuse, Plaintiff was capable of returning to his prior job as a kitchen helper. (Tr. 51-52). Alternatively, the ALJ ruled that Plaintiff could also perform work as a commercial cleaner, day worker or housekeeping cleaner. (Tr. 52-53). Thus, the ALJ ultimately found that Plaintiff was not ...

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