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Napier v. Berryhill

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

January 8, 2018

GREGORY ALLEN NAPIER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          HENRY R. WILHOIT JR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff has brought this action pursuant to 42 U, SC §405(g) to challenge a final decision of the Defendant denying Plaintiffs application for disability insurance benefits. The Court having reviewed the record in this case and the dispositive motions filed by the parties, and being otherwise sufficiently advised, for the reasons set forth herein, finds that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge is supported by substantial evidence and should be affirmed.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed his current application for disability insurance benefits in November 2010, alleging disability due to "heart attack, back problems, high blood pressure [and] high cholesterol." (Tr. 459). This application was denied initially, on reconsideration and by administrative decision. The Appeals Council granted Plaintiffs request for review and entered an order remanding this matter. Specifically, in its remand order, the Appeals Council found error because the ALJ did not discuss or weigh the opinions of Dr. Pettus, Dr. Hernandez, Dr. Swan, and Edward Stodola, Ph.D. (Tr. 240). The Appeals Council also found error because the ALJ found Plaintiff limited in certain areas (vibrations, bending, twisting, and standing and walking), but did not specify how limited (Tr. 239). As a result, it ordered the ALJ to reassess Plaintiffs residual functional capacity, weighing the medical opinions, and to obtain supplemental vocational expert evidence (Tr. 240).

         The matter was assigned to Administrative Law Judge Don C. Paris ("ALJ"), who convened a hearing, at which both Plaintiff and Martha Gross, a vocational expert ("VE") testified. At the hearing, pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 416.920, the ALJ performed the following five-step sequential analysis in order to determine whether the Plaintiff was disabled:

Step 1: If the claimant is performing substantial gainful work, he is not disabled.
Step 2: If the claimant is not performing substantial gainful work, his impairment(s) must be severe before he can be found to be disabled based upon the requirements in 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(b).
Step 3: If the claimant is not performing substantial gainful work and has a severe impairment (or impairments) that has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months, and his impairments (or impairments) meets or medically equals a listed impairment contained in Appendix 1, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4, the claimant is disabled without further inquiry.
Step 4: If the claimant's impairment (or impairments) does not prevent him from doing his past relevant work, he is not disabled.
Step 5: Even if the claimant's impairment or impairments prevent him from performing his past relevant work, if other work exists in significant numbers in the national economy that accommodates his residual functional capacity and vocational factors, he is not disabled.

         The ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled. Plaintiff has a 12thgrade education (Tr, 460). His past relevant work experience consists of work as a floral designer (Tr. 460).

         At Step 1 of the sequential analysis, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of disability (Tr. 57).

         The ALJ then determined, at Step 2, that Plaintiff suffers from status post Myocardial infarction and degenerative disc disease, which he found to be "severe" within the meaning of the Regulations (Tr. 57).

         At Step 3, the ALJ found that Plaintiffs impairments did not meet or medically equal any ...


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