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Cook v. Colvin

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

July 7, 2016

Michael D. Cook, Plaintiff,
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Michael D Cook, Plaintiff, represented by W. Daniel Mayes, Smith Massey Brodie Thumond Guynn and Mayes.

          Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant, represented by Marshall Prince, U.S. Attorneys Office.

          REPORT OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          KEVIN F. McDONALD, Magistrate Judge.

         This case is before the court for a report and recommendation pursuant to Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(a)(D.S.C.), concerning the disposition of Social Security cases in this District, and Title 28, United States Code, Section 636(b)(1)(B).[1]

         The plaintiff brought this action pursuant to Sections 205(g) and 1631(c)(3) of the Social Security Act, as amended (42 U.S.C. 405(g) and 1383(c)(3)), to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his claims for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act.

         ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

         The plaintiff filed applications for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI") benefits on January 10 and 11, 2012, respectively, alleging that he became unable to work on December 25, 2009. The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration by the Social Security Administration. On May 19, 2012, the plaintiff requested a hearing. The administrative law judge ("ALJ"), before whom the plaintiff and Mark Leaptrot, an impartial vocational expert, appeared on August 1, 2013, considered the case de novo, and on January 10, 2014, found that the plaintiff was not under a disability as defined in the Social Security Act, as amended. The ALJ's finding became the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security when the Appeals Council denied the plaintiff's request for review on April 13, 2015. The plaintiff then filed this action for judicial review.

         In making the determination that the plaintiff is not entitled to benefits, the Commissioner has adopted the following findings of the ALJ:

(1) The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through March 31, 2014.
(2) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 25, 2009, the alleged onset date (20 C.F.R §§ 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq. ).
(3) The claimant has the following severe impairments: Dysfunction Major Joints - Left Knee and Right Shoulder; Disorders of the Spine; and Affective and Anxiety Disorders (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
(4) The claimant 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 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
(5) After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform unskilled work at the light exertional level of work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) with occasional climbing ramps or stairs; occasional balancing and stooping; no climbing ladders, ropes, scaffolds; no kneeling, crouching, or crawling; frequent right upper extremity lateral and forward reaching but no right upper extremity overhead reaching; the need to avoid exposure to extreme temperatures, wetness, and humidity, and excessive vibration; the need to avoid exposure to hazards and heights; and, the need to avoid driving. The claimant is able to perform unskilled, low-stress work that is not fast-paced production work; with only occasional changes in the work setting and occasional decision-making; and, occasional interaction with the public and co-workers.
(6) The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1565 and 416.965).
(7) The claimant was born on December 21, 1973, and was 36 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44, on the alleged disability onset date (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563 and 416.963).
(8) The claimant has a limited education and is able to communicate in English (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1564 and 416.964).
(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 the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
(10) Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1569, 404.1569(a), 416.969 and 416.969(a)).
(11) The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from December 25, 2009, through the date of this decision (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).

         The only issues before the court are whether proper legal standards were applied and whether the final decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence.

         APPLICABLE LAW

         The Social Security Act provides that disability benefits shall be available to those persons insured for benefits, who are not of retirement age, who properly apply, and who are under a "disability." 42 U.S.C. § 423(a). "Disability" is defined in 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A) as:

the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be ...

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