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Miaun v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville

April 21, 2015

MARCEL MIAUN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

H. BRUCE GUYTON, Magistrate Judge.

This case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Rules of this Court for a report and recommendation regarding disposition by the District Court of Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and supporting memorandum, filed September 25, 2014. [Docs. 12 & 13]. Also before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 16 & 17]. Plaintiff Marcel Miaun seeks judicial review of the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), the final decision of the Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner").

On August 13, 2007, Plaintiff protectively filed a Title XVI application for supplemental security income ("SSI") with an alleged onset date of July 11, 2007. [Tr. 200-06, 219]. The Social Security Administration initially denied Plaintiff's application on October 2, 2007. [Tr. 117-19]. Plaintiff appeared before Administrative Law Judge Joan A. Lawrence in Knoxville, Tennessee on September 15, 2009. [Tr. 72-90]. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on February 24, 2010. [Tr. 95-108]. On March 8, 2011, the Appeals Council remanded the claim back to the ALJ for further consideration. [Tr. 109-12]. The ALJ held a second hearing on August 23, 2012. [Tr. 47-71]. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on January 4, 2013. [Tr. 28-46]. Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision, which the Appeals Council declined on April 5, 2014. [Tr. 26-27, 1-7].

Having exhausted his administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed a complaint with this Court on May 28, 2014, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision under Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act. [Doc. 1]. The parties have filed competing dispositive motions, and this matter is now ripe for adjudication.

I. ALJ FINDINGS

The ALJ made the following findings:

1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 13, 2007, the application date (20 CFR 416.971 et seq. ).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: residual effects of Chernobyl syndrome, seizure disorder, osteoarthritis, and anxiety disorder (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
3. 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 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926).
4. 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 416.967(a) except no climbing ladders; do no more than occasional climbing of stairs, balancing, stooping, bending, crouching, crawling, or kneeling; must avoid hazards; some problems with concentration, but can concentrate for at least two hours at a time; deal with occasional changes, not frequent; requires simple or detailed work, not complex; and no work where interaction/communication would be required.
5. The claimant has no past relevant work (20 CFR 416.965).
6. The claimant was born on March 19, 1969 and was 38 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44, on the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.963).
7. The claimant is not able to communicate in English, and is considered in the same way as an individual who is illiterate in English (20 CFR 416.964).
8. Transferability of job skills is not an issue because the claimant does not have past relevant work (20 CFR 416.968.
9. 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 CFR 416.969 and 416.969(a)).
10. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since August 13, 2007, the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.920(g)).

[Tr. 33-40].

II. DISABILITY ELIGIBILITY

To qualify for SSI benefits, plaintiff must file an application and be an "eligible individual" as defined in the Act. 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a); 20 C.F.R. § 416.202. An individual is eligible for SSI benefits on the basis of financial need and either age, blindness, or disability. See 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a).

"Disability" is the inability "[t]o 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). An individual shall be determined to be under a disability only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he 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).

Disability is evaluated pursuant to a five-step analysis summarized as follows:

1. If claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, he is not disabled.
2. If claimant is not doing substantial gainful activity, his impairment must be severe before he can be found to be disabled.
3. If claimant is not doing substantial gainful activity and is suffering from a severe impairment that has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months, and his impairment meets or equals a listed impairment, claimant is presumed disabled without further inquiry.
4. If claimant's impairment does not prevent him from doing his past relevant work, he is not disabled.
5. Even if claimant's impairment does prevent him from doing his past relevant work, if other work exists in the national economy that accommodates his residual functional capacity ("RFC") and vocational factors (age, education, skills, etc.), he is not disabled.

Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 529 (6th Cir. 1997) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520). Plaintiff bears the burden of proof at the first four steps. Walters, 127 F.3d at 529. The burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five. Id . At the fifth step, the Commissioner must prove that there is work available in the national economy that the claimant could perform. Her v. Comm'r ...


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