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Beard v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

January 23, 2018

DANIEL E. BEARD, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          KAREN L. LITKOVITZ, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Daniel E. Beard, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) denying plaintiffs application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). This matter is before the Court on plaintiffs Statement of Errors (Doc. 10) and the Commissioner's response in opposition (Doc. 13).

         I. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff protectively filed his application for DIB in November 2013, alleging disability since October 23, 2008, due to "migraines; three back injuries; degenerative disk disease; nerve damage in both hands/three surgeries; arthritis throughout neck, back, hands, knees, shoulders; bulge disk low back; spinal cord compression in neck; right knee pinned together; pain medication dependency; bone spurs; and rotator cuff tears." (Tr. 217). The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff, through counsel, requested and was granted a de novo hearing before administrative law judge ("ALJ") Andrew Gollin. Plaintiff and a vocational expert ("VE") appeared and testified at the ALJ hearing on January 27, 2016. On February 5, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision denying plaintiffs DIB application. Plaintiffs request for review by the Appeals Council was denied, making the decision of the ALJ 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.

Robbers 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), 404.152O(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] last met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act on December 31, 2013.
2. The [plaintiff] did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the period from his alleged onset date of October 23, 2008, through his date last insured of December 31, 2013 (20 CFR 404.1571, et seq.).
3. Through the date last insured of December 31, 2013, the [plaintiff] had the following severe impairments: cervical, thoracic, and lumbar degenerative disc disease, lumbar radiculopathy, arthritis, status-post right knee reconstruction surgery (1993), status post shoulder surgery (2001), mild osteoarthritis of the right AC joint; bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, depression, and anxiety (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
4. Through the date last insured, the [plaintiff] did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the [ALJ] finds that, through the date last insured, the [plaintiff] had the residual functional capacity [("RFC")] to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except: the [plaintiff] is limited to no more than occasional pushing/pulling using foot controls with the right lower extremity. The [plaintiff] is limited to no more than occasional pushing/pulling using hand controls with either upper extremity, and the [plaintiff] must be able to make position changes between sitting, standing, and walking while at the workstation for up to five minutes per hour. The [plaintiff] is limited to no more than occasional climbing of ramps and stairs, and no climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The [plaintiff] is limited to no more than occasional stooping, crouching, kneeling, and crawling. The [plaintiff] is limited to no more than occasional overhead reaching with the right upper extremity. The [plaintiff] is limited to no more than occasional handling, fingering, and feeling with the right dominant hand. The [plaintiff] is limited to no more than frequent handling, fingering, and feeling with the left non-dominant hand. The [plaintiff] is limited to no work involving concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dust, gases, pulmonary irritants, and/or poor ventilation. The [plaintiff] is limited to no concentrated exposure to vibration. The [plaintiff] is limited to no work involving hazardous machinery or equipment and no work involving unprotected heights. The [plaintiff] is limited to no work involving the operation of motorized vehicles. The [plaintiff] is limited to being able to understand, remember, and carry out detailed, but not complex, instructions. The [plaintiff] is limited to jobs that do not require a fast-paced production rate. The [plaintiff] is limited to no more than occasional changes in workplace settings and workplace duties with advance notice and demonstrated explanation given of such changes. The [plaintiff] is limited to no more than infrequent and brief interaction with the general public, which is defined as no more than 10% of the workday with each interaction lasting no more than five minutes. The [plaintiff] is limited to no more than occasional interaction with coworkers and supervisors. The [plaintiff] is limited to jobs that do not entail close, over the shoulder type supervision. The [plaintiff] is limited to jobs that allow employees to be off task up to 10% of the workday.
6. Through the date last insured, the [plaintiff] was unable to perform any past relevant work ...

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