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Gibney v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

September 24, 2013

JOHN GIBNEY, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM H. BAUGHMAN, Jr., Magistrate Judge.

Introduction

This is an action for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying the applications of the plaintiff, John Gibney, for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. The parties have consented to magistrate judge's jurisdiction.

The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), whose decision became the final decision of the Commissioner, found that Gibney had severe impairments consisting of psychological factors affecting medical condition and adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood.[1] The ALJ made the following finding regarding Gibney's residual functional capacity ("RFC"):

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) meaning claimant can lift and carry 10 pounds frequently and up to 20 pounds maximum occasionally. Claimant can sit, stand or walk for 6 hours in an 8-hour day. Manipulative limits include frequent but not continual handling, fingering or feeling with the dominant right hand. He must avoid even moderate exposure to workplace hazards such as unprotected heights or dangerous machinery. The claimant is precluded from tasks that involve high production quotas such as piecework or assembly line work and strict time requirements.[2]

The ALJ decided that this RFC precluded Gibney from performing his past relevant work as a truck driver and materials handler.[3]

Based on an answer to a hypothetical question posed to the vocational expert ("VE") at the hearing setting forth the RFC finding quoted above, the ALJ determined that a significant number of jobs existed locally and nationally that Gibney could perform.[4] The ALJ, therefore, found Gibney not under a disability.[5]

Gibney asks for reversal of the Commissioner's decision on the ground that it does not have the support of substantial evidence in the administrative record. He presents the following issue for judicial review:

Whether the ALJ erred when she found that from February 29, 2008, through the date of her decision that Mr. Gibney was capable of performing a significant number of jobs when the evidence demonstrates that there was at least a 12 month period when Mr. Gibney was unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity.[6]

The Court concludes that the ALJ's finding of no disability is supported by substantial evidence and, therefore, must be affirmed.

Analysis

1. Standard of review

The Sixth Circuit in Buxton v. Halter reemphasized the standard of review applicable to decisions of the ALJs in disability cases:

Congress has provided for federal court review of Social Security administrative decisions. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). However, the scope of review is limited under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g): "The findings of the Secretary as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive...." In other words, on review of the Commissioner's decision that claimant is not totally disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act, the only issue reviewable by this court is whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence. Substantial ...

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