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Schooler v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

May 8, 2014

CHARLES L. SCHOOLER, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOSEPH M. HOOD, Senior District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on cross motions for summary judgment [DE 9 and 10][1] on Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner's denial of his application for Supplemental Security Income. This matter is ripe for review. The Court, having reviewed the record and being otherwise sufficiently advised, will deny Plaintiff's motion and grant Defendant's motion.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Plaintiff Charles L. Schooler filed an application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on May 17, 2007, alleging disability as of November 24, 2005 (Tr. 114-17, 139). After the agency denied Schooler's claims at the initial and reconsideration levels (Tr. 73-79), the ALJ held a hearing on April 1, 2009 (Tr. 23-46). On June 2, 2009, the ALJ issued a hearing decision denying Schooler's claim (Tr. 12-22). On May 25, 2010, the Appeals Council (Council) denied Schooler's Request for Review (Tr. 1-4). Schooler then appealed to this Court. On January 19, 2011, this Court remanded Schooler's claim (Tr. 352-53), and on February 17, 2011, the Council remanded the claim, in relevant part, so that the ALJ could properly consider the standard articulated in Listing 12.05C for mental retardation. (Tr. 240, 357-60).

On March 22, 2012, the ALJ issued a remand hearing decision denying Schooler's claim (Tr. 237-52). On March 20, 2013, the Council denied Schooler's Request for Review (Tr. 226-29), making the ALJ's decision on remand the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481. Schooler now seeks judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

The facts underlying Plaintiff Charles L. Schooler's claim are largely undisputed. Schooler, born in 1972, was 39 years old at the time of his most recent administrative hearing. (Tr. 114.) He alleges disability beginning on November 24, 2005. (TR. 114). Schooler took special education classes before leaving school in the tenth grade. (Tr. 30-31). However, he obtained his GED. (Tr. 30). He has had no vocational training. (Tr. 30). He had been employed as a carpenter's helper for two years beginning in 2004.[2] (TR. 32-33). His duties included cleanup and assisting with tasks, such as holding pieces of drywall. (Tr. 33). He reported that he was terminated because "I didn't know enough for [Schooler's employer] to keep me." (Tr. 33). Schooler alleges that he has been unable to return to work as a result of the combination of impairments causing him to be disabled, including mental retardation, major depressive disorder, impaired eyesight, and impaired hearing. (Tr. 141).

II. OVERVIEW OF THE ALJ HEARING

In determining whether a claimant is disabled or not, the ALJ conducts a five-step analysis:

1.) Is the individual engaging in substantial gainful activity? If the individual is engaging in substantial gainful activity, the individual is not disabled, regardless of the claimant's medical condition.
2.) Does the individual have a severe impairment? If not, the individual is not disabled. If so, proceed to step 3.
3.) Does the individual's impairment(s) meet or equal the severity of an impairment listed in appendix 1, subpart P of part 404 of the Social Security Regulations? If so, the individual is disabled. If not, proceed to step 4.
4.) Does the individual's impairment(s) prevent him or her from doing his or her past relevant work, considering his or her residual functioning capacity? If not, the individual is not disabled, if so, proceed to step 5.
5.) Does the individual's impairment(s) prevent him or her from performing other work that exists in the national economy, considering his or her residual functioning capacity together with the "vocational factors" of age, education, and work experience? If so, the individual is disabled. If not, the individual is not disabled.

Heston v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d 528, 530 (6th Cir. 2001). "The burden of proof is on the claimant throughout the first four steps of this process to prove that he is disabled. If the analysis reaches the fifth step without a finding that the claimant is not disabled, the burden transfers to the Secretary." ...


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