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Tippett v. Colvin

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

June 24, 2013

RONNIE TIPPETT, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

JOSEPH M. HOOD, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon cross-motions for summary judgment on Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner's denial of his application for disability insurance benefits. [D.E. 13, D.E. 11].[1] The Court, having reviewed the record and being otherwise sufficiently advised, will deny Plaintiff's motion [D.E. 13] and grant Defendant's motion [D.E. 11].

I. OVERVIEW OF THE PROCESS AND THE INSTANT MATTER

The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), in determining disability, conducts a five-step analysis:

1. An individual who is working and engaging in substantial gainful activity is not disabled, regardless of the claimant's medical condition.
2. An individual who is working but does not have a "severe" impairment which significantly limits his physical or mental ability to do basic work activities is not disabled.
3. If an individual is not working and has a severe impairment which "meets the duration requirement and is listed in appendix 1 or is equal to a listed impairment(s)", then he is disabled regardless of other factors.
4. If a decision cannot be reached based on current work activity and medical facts alone, and the claimant has a severe impairment, then the Secretary reviews the claimant's residual functional capacity and the physical and mental demands of the claimant's previous work. If the claimant is able to continue to do this previous work, then he is not disabled.
5. If the claimant cannot do any work he did in the past because of a severe impairment, then the Secretary considers his residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience to see if he can do other work. If he cannot, the claimant is disabled.

Preslar v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 (1982)). "The burden of proof is on the claimant throughout the first four steps of this process to prove that he is disabled." Id. "If the analysis reaches the fifth step without a finding that the claimant is not disabled, the burden transfers to the Secretary." Id.

In the instant matter, the ALJ considered Plaintiff's claim in accordance with the five-step sequential evaluation process. [Tr. 10-17]. He first determined that Plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the relevant time period under step one. [Tr. 12]. Under step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has three medically determinable severe impairments, including a history of alcohol abuse, degenerative disc disease, and glaucoma. [Tr. 12].

After deciding that Plaintiff's impairments do not equal a listed impairment under step three, the ALJ proceeded to step four and found that Plaintiff has a residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b). [Tr. 13]. Although the ALJ found that Plaintiff cannot perform his past relevant work with this RFC, he determined with the assistance of a vocational expert that other work exists in significant numbers nationally and across the state that Plaintiff can perform in his condition. [Tr. 16]. Thus, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff is not disabled under the Social Security Act. [Tr. 17].

In this appeal, Plaintiff argues that the Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial evidence of record. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by 1) discounting the medical opinion of Dr. David Muffly [D.E. 13 at 11]; 2) determining that Plaintiff does not possess the criteria to meet listing 12.04 and 12.06 [D.E. 13 at 13-15]; 3) concluding that there are no jobs available in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform consistently with Dr. Muffly's report [D.E. 13 at 16]; and 4) not including Plaintiff's psychological restrictions in his hypothetical question to the vocational expert [D.E. 13 at 17]. The Court has ...


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