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Bruce v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington

February 20, 2018

JAMES MICHAEL BRUCE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          HENRY R. WILHOIT, 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 his application for disability insurance benefits. The Court having reviewed the record in this case and the dispositive motions filed by the parties, 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 October 2015, alleging disability beginning in October 2014, due to "back injury, severe arthritis, PTSD with anxiety, TBI, bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, recurrent tinnitus, TMJ, allergic rhinitis, GERD, left shoulder surgery and right elbow surgery" (Tr. 199). This application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Thereafter, upon request by Plaintiff, an administrative hearing was conducted by Administrative Law Judge Anne Shaughnessy (hereinafter "ALJ"), wherein Plaintiff, accompanied by counsel, testified. At the hearing, Suman Srinivasan, a vocational expert (hereinafter "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 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 (Tr. 20-30). Plaintiff was 39 years old on the alleged date of onset. He has a high school education education (Tr. 201). His past relevant work experience consists of work as an infantryman and recruiter (Tr. 208).

         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. 22).

         The ALJ then determined, at Step 2, that Plaintiff suffers from facet arthritis of the lumbar spine and PTSD, which he found to be "severe" within the meaning of the Regulations (Tr. 22-23).

         At Step 3, the ALJ found that Plaintiffs impairments did not meet or medically equal any of the listed impairments (Tr. 23-24).

         The ALJ further found that Plaintiff could not return to his past relevant work (Tr. 28) but determined that he has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a range of light work with the following restrictions:

He can climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds occasionally. He should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold, wetness, vibration, and hazards. He can understand and remember simple and detailed work procedures and instructions. He can tolerate coworkers and accept supervision in a generally object-focused context with infrequent and casual contacts with only occasional contact with the public. He would need a static work setting with infrequent changes.

(Tr. 24).

         The ALJ finally concluded that these jobs exist in significant numbers in the national and regional economies, as identified by the VE (Tr. 29).

         Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff not to be disabled at Step 5 of the ...


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