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Smith v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah

June 2, 2015

NICKY DALE SMITH PLAINTIFF
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Lanny King, Magistrate Judge United States District Court

Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of an administrative decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, who denied his application for disability insurance benefits. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned Magistrate Judge to determine this case, with any appeal lying before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The fact and law summaries of Plaintiff and Defendant are at Docket Numbers 14 and 17, and this matter is ripe for determination.

Because Plaintiff’s contentions are unpersuasive and the ALJ’s finding of lack of disability is supported by substantial evidence, the final decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED and Plaintiff’s complaint is DISMISSED.

Background facts and procedural history

Plaintiff was born in 1972 and alleges disability due to degenerative disc disease with bulging at L5-S1, sleep apnea, neuropathy, depression, and side-effects of strong pain medication.

The ALJ denied Plaintiff’s disability claim, finding that, although he is unable to perform past relevant work, he retains the ability to perform a significant number of sedentary jobs with a sit/stand option in the national economy.

The ALJ based this finding on a vocational hypothetical that contemplated significant physical limitations and mental limitations attributable to pain medication side-effects:

1. Physically, the individual is limited to sedentary work allowing for change of position between sitting and standing / walking every 30 minutes. Administrative Record (AR), p. 74.

2. Mentally, the individual can understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions; make judgments on simple work-related decisions; accept instructions; interact appropriately with others, supervisors, and coworkers in a routine work setting; respond to usual work situations, and to changes in a routine work setting; and maintain concentration and attention for 2-hour segments over an 8-hour period. AR, p. 73.

The ALJ committed no reversible error in not listing depression and neuropathy among Plaintiff’s “severe” impairments.

At Step 2 of the sequential evaluation process, the Commissioner identifies the claimant’s “severe” impairments, if any. “Severe” is a term of art meaning approximately “vocationally significant.”[1]

The ALJ acknowledged that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease with bulging at L5-S1 and sleep apnea. AR, p. 13.

Plaintiff’s contends that the ALJ erred in not including as severe impairments his neuropathy and depression.

The omission of an impairment from an ALJ’s Step 2 findings does not warrant remand where the ALJ found other impairments meeting the Step 2 severity criteria and proceeded to the remaining steps. See Maziarz v. Secretary, 837 F.2d 240, 244 (6th Cir.1987) (because ALJ acknowledged other “severe” impairments, severity of cervical condition irrelevant for Step 2 purposes). If a claimant has more than one impairment, the ALJ must consider all medically-determinable impairments when assessing residual functional capacity (RFC), including those that are not severe. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(3); Fisk v. Astrue, 253 Fed.Appx. 580, 584 (6th Cir.2007) (once ALJ determines at least one severe impairment, he “must consider limitations and restrictions imposed by all of an individual's impairments, even those that are not ...


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