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Pappas v. Colvin

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

March 25, 2015

NICK J. PAPPAS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

ALETA A. TRAUGER, District Judge.

On February 25, 2015, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") (Docket No. 24), to which the plaintiff, Nick J. Pappas, has filed timely Objections (Docket No. 25), and the defendant has filed a Response (Docket No. 27). The R&R recommends that the plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Docket No. 13) be denied and the decision of the Social Security Administration ("SSA") with respect to the plaintiff's claim for disability benefits be affirmed. For the reasons discussed herein, the court will overrule the plaintiff's Objections and accept the R&R.

BACKGROUND[1]

On May 6, 2010, the plaintiff filed a claim for social security benefits, alleging that he became disabled on February 28, 2008 as a result of lower back problems, high blood pressure, heart and thyroid problems, and a nerve condition. The state agency responsible for administering benefits denied the plaintiff's claim at the initial and reconsideration stages of review. Subsequently, the plaintiff filed a request for a de novo hearing and decision by an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). A hearing was held on May 3, 2012. The plaintiff, who was then 51 years old, attended the hearing with counsel and testified before the ALJ, as did an impartial vocational expert. On June 6, 2012, the ALJ issued a written decision in which he concluded that the plaintiff was not disabled. He made the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through June 30, 2009.
2. It was previously found that the claimant is the unmarried widower of the deceased insured worker and has attained the age of 50. The claimant met the non-disability requirements for disabled widower's benefits set forth in section 202(g) of the Social Security Act.
3. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 28, 2008, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq. ).
4. The claimant has the following severe impairments: Alcoholism; Adjustment Disorder; status post bereavement; Personality Disorder, not otherwise specified; Polysubstance Dependence, in sustained full remission. (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
5. Notwithstanding the claimant's alcohol use, he 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)).
6. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that, based on all the impairments, including the substance use disorders, the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: He is unable to sustain concentration and persistence for a minimum of two hours at a time, even for simple and unskilled work, nor is he able to reliably make simple work-related judgments or decisions. Moreover, he would be reasonably expected to take unscheduled breaks and/or be absent from work secondary to his symptoms of mental functioning, as exacerbated through his alcohol use. As a result, he would be mentally unable to sustain an eight-hour work day on a regular and continuing basis.
....
14. If the claimant stopped the substance abuse, the claimant would have the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: He would only be able to understand, remember, and carry out simple and detailed instructions of one to four steps, but is able to maintain concentration, persistence and pace for two hours at a time, with normal breaks, in performing tasks which meet these parameters.
....
17. If the claimant stopped the substance abuse, considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there would be a significant number of jobs in the national economy that the ...

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