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Baird v. Astrue

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

September 20, 2013

RICHARD RAY BAIRD, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

HENRY R. WILHORT, Jr., District Judge.

Plaintiff has brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g) to challenge a final decision of the Defendant denying Plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits. The Court having reviewed the record in this case and the dispositive motions filed by the parties, and being otherwise sufficiently advised, for the reasons set forth herein, finds that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge is supported by substantial evidence and should be affirmed.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed his current application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits on April 29, 2009, alleging disability beginning on March 11, 2008 due to bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, shoulder pain, migraines, neuropathy and breast cancer (Tr. 148). This application was denied initially and on reconsideration (Tr. 47-50, 68-79). An administrative hearing was convened. At the hearing, pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 416.920, the ALJ performed the following five-step sequential analysis in order to determine whether the Plaintiff was disabled:

Step 1: If the claimant is performing substantial gainful work, he is not disabled.
Step 2: If the claimant is not performing substantial gainful work, his impairment(s) must be severe before he can be found to be disabled based upon the requirements in 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(b).
Step 3: If the claimant is not performing substantial gainful work and has a severe impairment (or impairments) that has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months, and his impairments (or impairments) meets or medically equals a listed impairment contained in Appendix 1, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4, the claimant is disabled without further inquiry.
Step 4: If the claimant's impairment (or impairments) does not prevent him from doing his past relevant work, he is not disabled.
Step 5: Even if the claimant's impairment or impairments prevent him from performing his past relevant work, if other work exists in significant numbers in the national economy that accommodates his residual functional capacity and vocational factors, he is not disabled.

On August 6, 2010, the ALJ issued his decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled (Tr. 51-67).

Plaintiff was 52 years old at the time of the hearing decision. He has a high school education and his past relevant work experience consists of work as a machine repairman, machinist/millwright, cabinet maker, machine offbearer and furniture assembler (Tr. 26-27).

At Step 1 of the sequential analysis, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of disability. The ALJ then determined, at Step 2, that Plaintiff suffers from bipolar disorder. Social anxiety and has a history of polysubstance abuse, which he found to be "severe" within the meaning of the Regulations (Tr. 56). At Step 3, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal any of the listed impairments (Tr. 56). The ALJ further found that Plaintiff could not return to his past relevant work (Tr. 60-61) but determined that he has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to:

perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following non-exertional limitations. The claimant is limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks not performed in fast-paced production environment, involving only simple[] work-related decisions, and[, ] in general, relatively few work place changes. He is limited to occasional interaction with supervisors and occasional and superficial interaction with coworkers. He cannot have any contact with the general public.

(Tr.57). The ALJ finally concluded that jobs of this type exist in significant numbers in the national and regional economies, as identified by a vocational expert (Tr. 60-61). Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff not to be disabled at Step 5 of the sequential evaluation process.

The Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request for review and adopted the ALJ's decision as the final decision of the Commissioner on February 3, 2012 (Tr. 35-40).

Plaintiff thereafter filed this civil action seeking a reversal of the Commissioner's decision. Both parties have filed Motions for Summary Judgment [Docket Nos. 17 and 19] and this matter is ripe for decision.[1]

II. ANALYSIS

A. Standard of Review

The essential issue on appeal to this Court is whether the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence. "Substantial evidence" is defined as "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion;" it is based on the record as a whole and must take into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from its weight. Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984). If the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, the reviewing Court must affirm. Kirk v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 667 F.2d 524, 535 (6th Cir. 1981), cert. denied, 461 U.S. 957 (1983). "The court may not try the case de novo nor resolve conflicts in evidence, nor decide questions of credibility." Bradley v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 862 F.2d 1224, 1228 (6th Cir. 1988). Finally, this Court must defer to the Commissioner's decision "even if there is substantial evidence in the record that would have supported an opposite conclusion, so long as substantial evidence supports the conclusion reached by the ALJ." Key v. Callahan, 109 F.3d 270, 273 (6th Cir.1997).

B. Plaintiff's Contentions on Appeal

On appeal, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ improperly discounted the opinion of his treating psychiatrist Alan Myers, M.D. Plaintiff also contends that he qualifies for presumptive disability pursuant to Listing 12.04.

C. Analysis of Contentions on Appeal

Plaintiff's first claim of error is that Plaintiff argues that the ALJ improperly discounted the opinion of his ...


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