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Coleman v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Aiken Division

June 3, 2014

John Robert Coleman, Plaintiff,
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

SHIVA V. HODGES, Magistrate Judge.

This appeal from a denial of social security benefits is before the court for a Report and Recommendation ("Report") pursuant to Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(a) (D.S.C.). Plaintiff brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and § 1383(c)(3) to obtain judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his claim for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). The two issues before the court are whether the Commissioner's findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence and whether she applied the proper legal standards. For the reasons that follow, the undersigned recommends that the Commissioner's decision be reversed and remanded for further proceedings as set forth herein.

I. Relevant Background

A. Procedural History

On October 25, 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB in which he alleged his disability began on September 8, 2009. Tr. at. His application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. at 63-64. On July 27, 2012, Plaintiff had a hearing before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") William F. Pope. Tr. at 29-62 (Hr'g Tr.). The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on August 23, 2012, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. Tr. at 15-23. Subsequently, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner for purposes of judicial review. Tr. at 1-3. Thereafter, Plaintiff brought this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision in a complaint filed on May 29, 2013. [Entry #1].

B. Plaintiff's Background and Medical History

1. Background

Plaintiff was 62 years old at the time of the hearing. Tr. at 33. He holds an associate degree in nuclear engineering and a bachelor's degree in production management. Tr. at 33-34. His past relevant work ("PRW") was as an aeronautical project engineer, production engineer, and contract engineer. Tr. at 52-53. He alleges he has been unable to work since September 8, 2009. Tr. at 120.

2. Medical History and Hearing Testimony

On September 8, 2009, Plaintiff underwent prostate surgery for treatment of prostate cancer. Tr. at 202-03. Plaintiff testified that he became disabled as a result of this surgery. Tr. at 43. He asserts that the surgery caused back pain, digestive difficulties, and urinary incontinence, and that his continuing quarterly Lupron injections cause him to sweat and have hot flashes. Tr. at 44-46. Plaintiff also testified to back pain beginning in approximately 1981. Tr. at 48. MRIs of Plaintiff's lumbar spine in 2009 and 2010 document degenerative disc changes and moderate central canal stenosis. Tr. at 200-01, 259-60.

The Commissioner's initial brief [Entry #12] and the ALJ's decision (Tr. at 19-21) both include detailed summaries of Plaintiff's medical records and hearing testimony. Plaintiff has not summarized the record evidence and has not disputed the summaries provided by the Commissioner and ALJ. Plaintiff's allegations of error are discrete issues that do not require an exhaustive examination of the record. Consequently, while the undersigned typically provides a detailed summary of Plaintiff's medical history and hearing testimony, such a summary is rendered superfluous in this case.

C. The ALJ's Findings

In his decision dated August 23, 2012, the ALJ made the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2014.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 8, 2009, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq. ).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: residuals of status post prostate cancer; emphysema; and degenerative disease of the lumbar spine (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform work, with restrictions that require no lifting or carrying over 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; only occasional stooping, twisting, crouching, kneeling, crawling or climbing of stairs or ramps; no climbing of ladders or scaffolds; and an environment reasonably free from ...

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