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Stamper v. Berryhill

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

October 6, 2017

ANITA LYNN STAMPER, executor of the estate of Michael Lane Hatton, 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 9, 10) on Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner's denial of an 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.

         On July 16, 2012, Plaintiff's decedent, Michael Lane Hatton, filed an application for disability insurance benefits (DIB), alleging that he became disabled on July 15, 2002 (Tr. 12).[2]Hatton's application was denied, and he pursued and exhausted his administrative remedies before the Commissioner (Tr. 1-5 (Appeals Council decision), 12-22 (ALJ hearing decision), 27-64 (administrative hearing)). This case is ripe for review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         This case is unique in that Hatton first approached his local Social Security office concerning benefits a number of years after he stopped working (Tr. 31, 226). His “last insured” date for the purposes of his application was June 30, 2007 (Tr. 12). To be entitled to DIB, a claimant must be “under a disability” within the meaning of the Social Security Act as of the date his insured status expired. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423(c)(1); Higgs v. Bowen, 880 F.2d 860, 862 (6th Cir. 1988). Therefore, Hatton was required to show that he was disabled as of June 30, 2007. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423(c)(1).

         He was 63 years old at the time of the Commissioner's final decision on July 16, 2014, and 56 on the date his insured status expired (Tr. 66 (date of birth)). He graduated from high school and previously worked as a machine operator ...


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