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Dooley v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division

March 21, 2017

LARRY M. DOOLEY, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL[1], Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's request for judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the final decision of Defendant denying Plaintiff's application for supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (Act), 1381, et seq. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will affirm the Commissioner's denial of Plaintiff's applications.

         Facts and Background

         On April 17, 2014, Administrative Law Judge David K. Fromme conducted a video hearing from Springfield, Missouri. Plaintiff appeared in West Plains, Missouri and the Vocational Expert, Teppe Hodgson, appeared as well.

         Plaintiff resided in a single family house located in Winona, Missouri at the time of the hearing. Plaintiff noted that his girlfriend lived with him on occasion. Plaintiff was born on March 3, 1971. He was 43years old at the time of the hearing. Plaintiff completed high school.

         Plaintiff has prior work experience with Briggs and Stratton as a metal die castor for about eight or ten months. He also has work experience at Timber Industries treating lumber for about three or four months. Plaintiff testified he has welding experience as a MIG welder from building farm equipment and trailers. His last work experience, in 2004 or 2005, was that of a painter for a company called SEI.

         On further examination by the ALJ the Plaintiff testified, that he has to use a cane in walking distances greater than 10 feet or so. Further there was testimony relating to limiting back pain. Plaintiff stated the back pain prevents him from bending and putting on shoes and that it radiated through his hip to his right leg. Plaintiff also testified to having uncontrolled diabetes which causes his feet and ankles to burn and hurt all the time.

         The ALJ also heard testimony that Plaintiff can lift a gallon of milk, but not for longer than two and one half hours out of an eight-hour day. There was also testimony that he has difficulty concentrating about 75% of the time. Plaintiff also takes medication for depression and has difficulty interacting with other people.

         There was testimony from Dr. Hodgson, the Vocational Expert. Dr. Hodgson testified and classified the past work experience of the Plaintiff in relation to the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. Based upon all of those considerations and the stated hypotheticals of the ALJ, including stated limitations, the Vocational Expert concluded there were jobs at the sedentary work level available for Plaintiff as a reel assembler, charge account clerk, and having a cane would not affect the viability of those jobs. The Vocational Expert also testified that it was her opinion that if Plaintiff had to use the cane then standing upright would eliminate unskilled sedentary work.

         The ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not entitled to a finding of disabled. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on October 28, 2015. The decision of the ALJ is now the final decision for review by this court.

         Statement of Issues

         The issues in a Social Security case are whether the final decision of the Commissioner is consistent with the Social Security Act, regulations, and applicable case law, and whether the findings of fact by the ALJ are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Here the Plaintiff asserts the specific issue in this case is whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's RFC finding.

         Standard for Determining Disability

         The Social Security Act defines as disabled a person who is “unable 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 expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A); see also Hurd v. Astrue, 621 F.3d 734, 738 (8th Cir.2010). The impairment must be “of such severity that [the claimant] is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be hired if he applied for work.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).

         A five-step regulatory framework is used to determine whether an individual claimant qualifies for disability benefits. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a); see also McCoy v. Astrue, 648 F.3d 605, 611 (8th Cir.2011) (discussing the five-step process). At Step One, the ALJ determines whether the claimant is currently engaging in “substantial gainful activity”; if so, then he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(I), 416.920(a)(4)(I); McCoy, 648 F.3d at 611. At Step Two, the ALJ determines whether the claimant has a severe impairment, which is “any impairment or combination of impairments which significantly limits [the claimant's] physical or mental ability to do basic work activities”; if the claimant does not have a severe impairment, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a) (4)(ii), 404.1520(c), 416.920(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(c); McCoy, 648 F.3d at 611. At Step Three, the ALJ evaluates whether the claimant's impairment meets or equals one of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the ...

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