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Law v. Colvin

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

November 6, 2013

DONALD RAY LAW, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOSEPH M. HOOD, Senior District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon cross-motions for Summary Judgment [D.E. 10, 11] on Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner's denial of his application for Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Insurance. [Tr. 66-83].[1] The Court, having reviewed the record and being otherwise sufficiently advised, will deny Plaintiff's motion and grant Defendant's motion.

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 determined that Plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the relevant time period under step one. [Tr. 71]. Under step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's medically determinable impairments of degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, pain disorder, and shoulder arthritis were "severe" as defined by the agency's regulations. [Tr. 72]; 20 CFR §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). The ALJ further found that Plaintiff's impairments of Hepatitis C, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, and right sided diverticulitis were "non-severe" impairments. [Tr. 72].

During step three of the analysis, the ALJ considered all of Plaintiff's impairments and decided that none of them met the criteria listed in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1. [Tr. 72-74]. After further review of the entire record, the ALJ concluded at step four that Plaintiff had a residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform less than the full range of light work, but that he could frequently climb ramps or stairs, occasionally climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl, and frequently reach bilaterally. [Tr. 74]. Additionally, the ALJ found that Plaintiff should avoid concentrated exposure to vibration, the operational controls of moving machinery, and unprotected heights. [Tr. 74]. Furthermore, Plaintiff would be limited to simple, routine tasks with only occasional changes in the work setting, with no interaction with the public and only occasional interaction with co-workers, including no tandem tasks. [Tr. 74].

The ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to perform any of his past relevant work. [Tr. 78]. However, there were jobs in the relevant national economy that Plaintiff could perform. [Tr. 78]. Thus, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff is not disabled under the Social Security Act. [Tr. 79].

In this appeal, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to consider all of Plaintiffs severe, non-severe, exertional, and non-exertional impairments and that the ALJ failed to accurately describe the claimant when ...


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