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Followell v. Berryhill

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

March 31, 2017

GARY FOLLOWELL, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY J. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Joseph M. Hood, Senior U.S. District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-Motions for Summary Judgment (DE 10, 11) on Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner's denial of his application for disability insurance benefits.[1] The matter having been fully briefed by the parties is now ripe for this Court's review.

         I.

         In determining whether an individual is disabled, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) uses 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 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 & Hum. Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994)(citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(1982)).

         II.

         In October 2012, Plaintiff protectively applied for disability insurance benefits pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act (Tr. 172-73). See 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-33.1 Plaintiff pursued his claim to a de novo hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) (Tr. 117-20, 122-24, 129-30), which the ALJ convened in February 2014 (Tr. 42-97). On April 30, 2014, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision (Tr. 25-38). Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 24, 241-45), which the Appeals Council denied (Tr. 1-6), making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of judicial review. See 20 C.F.R. § 422.210(a).

         III.

         Plaintiff was an individual closely approaching advanced age on the date of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 52, 172). He has a twelfth grade education (Tr. 52, 216) and past work experience as a material handler, color plate handler, and band saw operator (Tr. 92-93, 178-87, 191-99, 216). He alleged disability since April 30, 2012 (Tr. 172) due to arthritis and hypertension (Tr. 214-15, 225-26, 230).

         In May 2012, Plaintiff presented to Donald Hamner, M.D., with complaints that included bilateral knee pain and pain with walking (Tr. 253-54). Dr. Hamner diagnosed degenerative arthritis of his knees and hypertension under adequate control (Tr. 255). In January 2013, Alex Guerrero, M.D., a state agency psychiatrist, reviewed the evidence and said Plaintiff did not have a severe mental impairment (Tr. 108-16).

         In February 2013, Carlos Hernandez, M.D., a state agency physician, reviewed the evidence and assessed limitations consistent with medium work (Tr. 108-16). Two days later, Plaintiff presented to Jeremy Tarter, M.D., with complaints that he continued to struggle with both of his knees with increased debilitation and compromised activities of daily living (Tr. 306). X-rays showed that he had end stage medial compartment degenerative changes and surprisingly quite a bit of patellofemoral degenerative changes with osteophytes (bone spurs) and loss of clear space (Tr. 306). Plaintiff ...


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