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Cox v. Berryhill

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

February 16, 2017

THEODORE M. COX, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Thomas E. Rogers, III United States Magistrate Judge

         This is an action brought pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. Section 405(g), to obtain judicial review of a “final decision” of the Commissioner of Social Security, denying Plaintiff's claim for disability insurance benefits (DIB). The only issues before the Court are whether the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence and whether proper legal standards have been applied.

         I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on July 27, 2010, alleging inability to work since July 7, 2010. (Tr. 136-42, 210). His claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing. A hearing was held on September 14, 2012, at which time the Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified. (Tr. 37-60). The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision on December 6, 2012, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. (Tr.17-34). Although the Appeals Council denied review on June 21, 2013, this Court reversed the Commissioner's final decision and remanded for further administrative action in an Order dated September 17, 2014. (Tr. 1-4, 716-42). On remand, the ALJ again issued an unfavorable decision, dated June 15, 2015. (Tr. 633-47). Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's hearing decision, but the Appeals Council stated it “found no reason under [its] rules to assume jurisdiction” in a letter dated November 9, 2015. (Tr. 625-28). This appeal followed on August 17, 2015.

         B. Plaintiff's Background

         Plaintiff was born on January 9, 1966, and was 49 years old at the time of the alleged onset. (Tr. 103). Plaintiff completed his education through high school and has past relevant work experience as an electrician. (Tr. 41-42).

         C. The ALJ's Decision

         In the decision of June 15, 2015, the ALJ made the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:

1. The claimant last met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act on December 31, 2014.
2. The claimant did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the period from his alleged onset date of July 7, 2010 through his date last insured of December 31, 2014 (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq.).
3. Through the date last insured, the claimant had the following severe impairments: status post cervical surgeries and left shoulder surgery, degenerative disc disease, migraine headaches, sensorineural hearing loss, vertigo, seizures, plantar fascial fibisromas, ulnar nerve entrapment, and depression (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
4. Through the date last insured, the claimant did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that, through the date last insured, the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except the claimant cannot climb, crawl, or balance. The claimant can perform no more than frequent fingering with the non-dominant arm and hand. The claimant cannot perform overhead reaching with the non-dominant arm. The claimant can sit and stand at will, exercised once each work hour for no more than 5 minutes without leaving the workstation. The claimant cannot have exposure to industrial hazards. The claimant can perform work in a low stress setting with no more than occasional decision making or changes in the work setting, and no interaction with the general public.
6. Through the date last insured, the claimant was unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565).
7. The claimant was born on January 9, 1966, and was 48 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44, on the date last insured (20 CFR 404.1563).
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564).
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 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. Through the date last insured, considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant could have performed (20 CFR 404.1569, 404.1569(a)).
11. The claimant was not under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from July 7, 2010, the alleged onset date, through December 31, 2014, the date last insured ...

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