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Hernandez-Matta v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

March 29, 2018



          Colin Lindsay, Magistrate Judge

         Before the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of plaintiff Victor Manuel Hernandez-Matta (“plaintiff”). In his complaint, plaintiff seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“the Commissioner”). See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2012) (“Any individual, after any final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security . . . may obtain a review of such decision by a civil action commenced within sixty days after the mailing to him of notice of such decision . . . .”). Plaintiff filed a Fact and Law Summary (DN 15). The Commissioner also filed a Fact and Law Summary (DN 21).

         The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge to enter judgment in this case with direct review by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in the event an appeal is filed (DN 14.) Therefore, this matter is ripe for review. For the reasons set forth below, the final decision of the Commissioner is affirmed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff protectively filed an application for disability insurance benefits on June 24, 2013 and for supplemental social security income on February 6, 2015. (R. 14, 96, 113.) In both applications, plaintiff alleged disability beginning on January 1, 2010; plaintiff later amended his alleged onset date to February 28, 2015. (Id. at 14.)

         On June 23, 2016, Administrative Law Judge Steven Collins (“the ALJ”) conducted a hearing in Louisville, Kentucky. Plaintiff appeared via video teleconference and was represented by John Sharpensteen. Linda Jones, a vocational expert, also testified at the hearing. In a decision dated November 2, 2016, the ALJ engaged in the five-step evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner to determine whether an individual is disabled. In doing so, the ALJ made these findings.

         1. Plaintiff meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2019. (Id. at 16.)

         2. Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 28, 2015, the alleged onset date. (Id.)

         3. Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: morbid obesity; degenerative disc disease; sleep apnea; anxiety/depression; peripheral vascular disease; asthma; hypertension; hypertensive heart disease; and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. (Id.)

         4. Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Id. at 17.)

         5. Plaintiff has the residual functioning capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work except occasional lifting/carrying up to twenty pounds and frequent lifting/carrying up to ten pounds. Plaintiff would sit six of eight hours and stand/walk two of eight hours. Plaintiff could occasionally use the lower extremities for pushing and pulling. Plaintiff could occasionally climb ramps and stairs but never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. Plaintiff could occasionally stoop, kneel, and crouch, but never crawl. Plaintiff could frequently balance. Plaintiff should avoid concentrated exposure to extremes of heart and pulmonary irritants to include fumes, odors, dust, gases, and poor ventilation. Plaintiff should avoid all exposure to hazards including unprotected heights and dangerous machinery. Plaintiff could frequently handle with the bilateral upper extremities. Plaintiff cannot drive. Plaintiff has the ability for frequent cervical flexion with the neck. Plaintiff is capable of simple, routine tasks involving simple work related decisions with few, if any, work place changes. Plaintiff cannot perform fast-paced production requirements. Plaintiff can have occasional contact with supervisors and coworkers, but no contact with public. (Id. at 19.)

         6. Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work. (Id. at 26.)

         7. Plaintiff was born on September 15, 1970 and was 44 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 45-49, on the alleged disability onset date. (Id.)

         8. Plaintiff has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English. (Id.)

         9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or not plaintiff has transferable job skills. (Id.)

         10. Considering plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that he can perform. (Id.)

         11. Plaintiff has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from February 28, 2015, through the date of this decision. (Id. at 27.)

         Plaintiff timely requested an appeal to the Appeals Council on or about November 23, 2016. (Id. at 9-10.) On January 17, 2017, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review. (Id. at 2.) At that point, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 422.210(a); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(h) (discussing finality of the Commissioner's decision). Plaintiff filed this action on March 9, 2017.

         II. ...

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