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Lester v. Astrue

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

March 26, 2014

CHUCK LESTER, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

HENRY R. WILHOIT, 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 Plaintiffs application for disability insurance 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's March 10, 2008 application for disability insurance benefits was denied both at the initial level and on reconsideration. (Tr. 89-90 and 77-80). He requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, and on September 14, 2009, Administrative Law Judge Frank Letchworth issued an unfavorable decision. (Tr. 7-18). On August 31, 2011, the U.S. District Court remanded the case pursuant to Sentence Four of 42 U.S.C. 405(g) for further proceedings. (Ter. 482-484). Pursuant to the order of the District Court, Mr. Lester appeared before ALJ Tommye C. Mangus in Middlesboro, Kentucky on June 12, 2012.

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.

Plaintiff was 49 years old at the time of the hearing decision. He has a 8th grade education (Tr. 134). He was employed from 1978 through 2003 in various jobs which included working for Sara Lee as a pan stacker, working as a fork lift operator in a factory, and working as a cable puller for Clawson Construction. (Tr. 107-112, 131).

Disability is alleged on the basis of long term residuals following an injury in 2003 with disc herniation at the L5-S1 level, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, depression, and borderline intellectual functioning.

The ALJ specified that his decision would address the time period beginning with the first day of the unadjudicated period, August 7, 2007 (Tr. 399). After a careful review of the entire record, as well as the prior ALJ decision from August 6, 2007, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease; borderline intellectual functioning; and a pain disorder (Tr. 402). The ALJ found that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform sedentary work that accommodates a sit/stand option every thirty minutes and involves understanding, remembering, and carrying out one- to two-step instructions in a nonpublic, object-focused work setting in which reading is not an essential job element (Tr. 404). The ALJ then relied on the testimony from the vocational expert (VE) to establish the existence of a significant number of jobs in the national economy which Plaintiff could perform, given his condition (Tr. 407-408). Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled (Tr. 408-09).

The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review and adopted the ALJ's decision as the final ...


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