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Humphrey v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

September 1, 2017

WILLIAM O. HUMPHREY, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Karen L. Litkovitz United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff William O. Humphrey brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying plaintiff's application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). This matter is before the Court on plaintiff's statement of errors (Doc. 5), the Commissioner's response in opposition (Doc. 12), and plaintiff's reply memorandum (Doc. 13).

         I. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff was granted SSI disability benefits in February 2000 following a hearing with Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Douglass Custis. (Tr. 163-172). ALJ Custis adopted the opinion of the testifying medical expert, Dr. Hawkins, and determined that plaintiff met Section 12.08 of the Listing of Impairments for personality disorders. (Tr. 167-68). Plaintiff's benefits were terminated when he was incarcerated in November 2002. (Tr. 19). After his release from prison, plaintiff filed an application for SSI in July 2007, alleging disability beginning July 27, 1998. (Tr. 173, 444-450). Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 173-174, 231-234). Following a hearing in October 2009, ALJ Sarah Miller issued a decision finding plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. 136-162, 175-190). In March 2012, the Appeals Council remanded plaintiff's case to the ALJ. (Tr. 191-193). In September 2013, ALJ David Redmond conducted a hearing and issued a decision in February 2014 finding plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. 107-135, 195-219). In July 2015, the Appeals Council again remanded plaintiff's case to the ALJ for further development of the record and reweighing of the medical opinion evidence. (Tr. 220-224).

         In December 2015, ALJ Gregory Kenyon conducted a third hearing. (Tr. 43-75). In January 2016, ALJ Kenyon issued a decision finding that plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. 16-42). Plaintiff's request for review by the Appeals Council was denied, making ALJ Kenyon's January 2016 decision the final administrative decision of the Commissioner.

         II. Analysis

         A. Legal Framework for Disability Determinations

         To qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must suffer from a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result in death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The impairment must render the claimant unable to engage in the work previously performed or in any other substantial gainful employment that exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2).

         Regulations promulgated by the Commissioner establish a five-step sequential evaluation process for disability determinations:

1) If the claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, the claimant is not disabled.
2) If the claimant does not have a severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment - i.e., an impairment that significantly limits his or her physical or mental ability to do basic work activities - the claimant is not disabled.
3) If the claimant has a severe impairment(s) that meets or equals one of the listings in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the regulations and meets the duration requirement, the claimant is disabled.
4) If the claimant's impairment does not prevent him or her from doing his or her past relevant work, the claimant is not disabled.
5) If the claimant can make an adjustment to other work, the claimant is not disabled. If the claimant cannot make an adjustment to other work, the claimant is disabled.

Rabbers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 582 F.3d 647, 652 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v), 404.1520(b)-(g)). The claimant has the burden of proof at the first four steps of the sequential evaluation process. Id.; Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 378 F.3d 541, 548 (6th Cir. 2004). Once the claimant establishes a prima facie case by showing an inability to perform the relevant previous employment, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that the claimant can perform other substantial gainful employment and that such employment exists in the national economy. Rabbers, 582 F.3d at 652; Harmon v. Apfel, 168 F.3d 289, 291 (6th Cir. 1999).

         B. The Administrative Law Judge's Findings

         The ALJ applied the sequential evaluation process and made the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:

1. The [plaintiff] has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 16, 2007, the application date (20 CFR 416.971 et seq.).
2. The [plaintiff] has the following severe impairments: residuals of a lumbosacral strain, depression, and an antisocial personality disorder (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
3. The [plaintiff] does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
4. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the [plaintiff] has the residual functional capacity to perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(c) subject to the following limitations: (1) frequent crouching, crawling, kneeling, stooping, and climbing of ramps and stairs; (2) no climbing of ladders, ropes or scaffolds; (3) no work around hazards, such as unprotected heights or dangerous machinery; (4) limited to performing unskilled, simple, repetitive tasks; (5) occasional, superficial contact with coworkers and supervisors; (6) no public contact; (7) no teamwork or tandem tasks; (8) no close over the shoulder supervision; (9) no fast paced production work or jobs involving strict production quotas; and (10) limited to performing jobs in a relatively static work environment in which there is very little, if any, change in the job duties or the work routine from one day to the next.
5. The [plaintiff] has no past relevant work (20 CFR 416.965).
6. The [plaintiff] was born [in] 1977 and was 30 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.963).
7. The [plaintiff] has a limited education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 416.964).
8. Transferability of job skills is not at issue because the [plaintiff] does not have past relevant work (20 CFR 416.968).
9. Considering the [plaintiff]'s age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the [plaintiff] can perform (20 CFR 416.969 and 416.969(a)).[1]
10. The [plaintiff] has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since July 16, 2007, the date the ...

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