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Napier v. Berryhill

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

February 14, 2018

DAVID W. NAPIER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          HENRY R. WILHOIT. JR. UNITED STATE DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff has brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §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 has filed various applications for disability insurance benefits, alleging disability due to back pain, gout, arthritis and "nerves" (Tr. 690). Before the Court is a decision by Administrative Law Judge Roger Reynolds ("ALJ Reynolds") dated November 20, 2012. That decision was rendered upon remand from Senior District Court Judge G. Wix Unthank for reconsideration of medical evidence. On remand, ALJ Reynolds adjudicated the period of February 14, 2006, through March 28, 2008. Notably, this period fell after the period adjudicated by ALJ Charles Arnold ("ALJ Arnold"), August 5, 2004, through February 13, 2006 (Tr. 585-92), and before the period adjudicated by ALJ Don Paris ("ALJ Paris"), March 29, 2008, through May 14, 2010 (see Tr. 636 n.4). ALJs Arnold and Paris both found that Plaintiff was not disabled, and both ALJs' decisions are final (see Tr. 635-36). Here, on remand, ALJ Reynolds likewise found that Plaintiff was not disabled (Tr. 635-41). Prior to his decision, ALJ Reynolds convened a hearing, during which Plaintiff, accompanied by counsel, testified. At the hearing, Linda Taber, a vocational expert ("VE"), also 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 impairments) 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.

         Plaintiff was 52 years old in March 2008, the end of the relevant period of adjudication. He has a 9th grade education (Tr. 79). His past relevant work experience consists of work as a bulldozer operator (Tr. 640).

         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, August 5, 2004, through the period at issue and, by extension, his date last insured, September 30, 2009 (Tr. 638).

         The ALJ then determined, at Step 2, that, during the period at issue, Plaintiff suffered from chronic low back pain secondary to degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine with compression fractures of the LI and L3 vertebrae, morbid obesity and adjustment disorder with depressive features, which he found to be "severe" within the meaning of the Regulations (Tr. 638).

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


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