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Little v. Berryhill

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

October 19, 2017

JERRY MICHAEL LITTLE, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL[1], 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 25 and 26) 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. Overview of the Process and the Instant Matter

         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.

         Plaintiff filed the instant claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), alleging an onset date of June 15, 2004, with a protective filing date of February 25, 2009 (Tr. 346-48, 391).[3]After Plaintiff's claim was denied at the initial and reconsideration levels (Tr. 82-83), a hearing was held on July 28, 2010 (Tr. 87), and on August 9, 2010, an administrative law judge (ALJ) denied Plaintiff's claim (Tr. 84-98). On August 8, 2011, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 99-104). Plaintiff sought judicial review in this Court, which remanded the case on December 6, 2011, because of an inaudible hearing recording (Tr. 105-07). A second ALJ held a hearing on October 19, 2012, and on November 29, 2012, the ALJ issued a second decision denying Plaintiff's claim (Tr. 123-39). On December 13, 2013, the Appeals Council granted Plaintiff's request for review and remanded to the ALJ for further development of Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment and additional testimony from a vocational expert (VE) (Tr. 140-44). On October 30, 2014, the ALJ held a third hearing (Tr. 25-68), and on January 12, 2015, the ALJ issued a third decision denying Plaintiff's claim (Tr. 8-24). Plaintiff did not file timely exceptions to the ALJ's January 2015 decision, and thus, on August 23, 2016, the Appeals Council informed Plaintiff that the ALJ's January 2015 decision was now the Commissioner's final decision (Tr. 1-5). Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         III.

         Plaintiff, born in 1966, was forty-three years old as of his date last insured (December 31, 2009), can understand English, and has at least a high school education (Tr. 17, 391, 394, 400). Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as an assembly worker, forklift operator, telephone line installer, backhoe operator, and injection molding operator (Tr. 17, 61-62, 383-90). Plaintiff had severe impairments of morbid obesity; joint pain, status-post multiple orthopedic traumas in motor vehicle accidents with history of fractures of right femur, right hip, right knee, right tibia, left tibia, and left fibula with open reduction internal fixation and subsequent surgeries to remove hardware; and right shoulder ...


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