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Noble v. Berryhill

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

September 29, 2017

ROBERT EARL NOBLE, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. 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 7, 9; see also Reply at ¶ 10-2)[1] on Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner's denial of his application for disability insurance benefits.[2] 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 December 2013, Plaintiff filed applications for supplemental security income (SSI) and disability insurance benefits (DIB) (Tr. 148-49, 285-93). After a hearing on August 28, 2015 (Tr. 342-60), an ALJ denied Plaintiff's claims on September 24, 2015 (Tr. 15-25), and the Appeals Council then declined Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 8-11), making the ALJ's September 2015 decision the final agency decision for purposes of judicial review. 20 C.F.R. § 404.981, 422.210(a). This appeal followed.

         Plaintiff previously received a closed period of disability from April 23, 2007, to June 15, 2008 (Tr. 26-38). Thereafter, he returned to work as a concrete truck driver (Tr. 38). In his current application, Plaintiff alleged he became unable to work in June 2011, due to neck and back injuries and mental problems (Tr. 162). He later amended his alleged onset date to June 30, 2014 (Tr. 345-46). Plaintiff was 49 years old on that date, and 50 years old at the time of the ALJ's September 2015 final decision, that is now before the Court (Tr. 148). Plaintiff has a high school education and worked in the vocationally relevant past as a truck driver (Tr. 163, 357).

         Plaintiff had a long history of treatment for neck and back issues, including neck surgery in 2005 (Tr. 224, 272). In questionnaires completed in connection with his disability application, Plaintiff reported that he did not perform any house or yard work (Tr. ...


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