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Doucette v. Saul

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

September 6, 2019

MICHAEL DOUCETTE, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL,[1] Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          ABBIE CRITES-LEONI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Michael Doucette brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the Social Security Administration Commissioner's denial of his applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act.

         An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that, despite Doucette's severe impairments, he was not disabled as he had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform work existing in significant numbers in the national economy.

         This matter is pending before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge, with consent of the parties, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). A summary of the entire record is presented in the parties' briefs and is repeated here only to the extent necessary.

         For the following reasons, the decision of the Commissioner will be affirmed.

         I. Procedural History

         Doucette filed his application for benefits on August 14, 2014, claiming that he became unable to work on February 1, 2014. (Tr. 276-82, 283-88.) In his Disability Report, Doucette alleged disability due to the following conditions: ruptured and herniated disc in his neck and back, chest pains, black spots on his lungs, constant headaches from a disc in his neck, bad knees, numbness in his right leg and left arm, high blood pressure, and depression. (Tr. 311.) Doucette was 45 years of age on his alleged onset of disability. (Tr. 28.) His applications were denied initially. (Tr. 130-36.) Doucette's claims were denied by an ALJ on August 4, 2017, after a hearing. (Tr. 15-30.) On April 27, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Doucette's claim for review. (Tr. 1-5.) Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.

         In this action, Doucette argues that the ALJ's “credibility finding is rife with error and does not follow the Agency's required two-step analysis pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 404.1529, requiring reversal.” (Doc. 22 at 3.)

         II. The ALJ's Determination

         The ALJ first found that Doucette met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2018. (Tr. 17.) Doucette had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 1, 2014, the alleged onset date. Id. In addition, the ALJ concluded that Doucette has the following severe impairments: obesity, lumbar and cervical degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease of the knee, depression, and an unspecified anxiety disorder. (Tr. 18.) The ALJ found that Doucette did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments. (Tr. 19.)

         As to Doucette's RFC, the ALJ stated:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except that he can lift or carry up to 20 pounds occasionally but cannot perform any frequent lifting or carrying. He can sit for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday and, throughout an 8hour workday, can stand/walk for 15 minutes at a time and 2 hours total. He cannot kneel, crouch, crawl, or climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. He can stoop and balance occasionally. He can perform occasional reaching with the dominant upper extremity and frequent reaching with the non-dominant upper extremity. He should avoid exposure to hazards such as dangerous machinery and unprotected heights. Additionally, the claimant is limited to performing simple routine tasks throughout the workday.

(Tr. 22.)

         The ALJ found that Doucette was unable to perform any past work, but was capable of performing other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy, such as addresser, call out operator, and telephone quotation clerk. (Tr. 28-29.) The ALJ therefore concluded that Doucette was not under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from February 1, 2014, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 29.)

         The ALJ's final decision reads as follows:

Based on the application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits filed on August 14, 2014, the claimant is not disabled under sections 216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act.
Based on the application for supplemental security income protectively filed on August 14, 2014, the claimant is not disabled under section ...

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