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Malone v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Northern Division

July 18, 2014

CHARLES MALONE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM E. CASSADY, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff brings this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his claims for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. The parties have consented to the exercise of jurisdiction by the Magistrate Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), for all proceedings in this Court. (Docs. 23 & 24 ("In accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, the parties in this case consent to have a United States Magistrate Judge conduct any and all proceedings in this case, ... order the entry of a final judgment, and conduct all post-judgment proceedings.").) Upon consideration of the administrative record, plaintiff's brief, the Commissioner's brief, and the arguments of counsel for the parties at the June 27, 2014 hearing before the Court, it is determined that the Commissioner's decision denying benefits should be affirmed.[1]

Plaintiff alleges disability due to degenerative disc disease. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) made the following relevant findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2013.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 1, 2009, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq. ).
...
3. The claimant has the following severe impairment: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
...
4. The claimant 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), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
...
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except claimant should work in an occupation that allows him to alternate between sitting and standing. Claimant should never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. Claimant should use handrails to climb stairs. Claimant's work should be limited to simple tasks consistent with a SVP of 1 or 2.
In making this finding, the undersigned has considered all symptoms and the extent to which these symptoms can reasonably be accepted as consistent with the objective medical evidence and other evidence, based on the requirements of 20 CFR 404.1529 and 416.929 and SSRs 96-4p and 96-7p. The undersigned has also considered opinion evidence in accordance with the requirements of 20 CFR 404.1527 and 416.927 and SSRs 96-2p, 96-5p, 96-6p and 06-3p.
In considering the claimant's symptoms, the undersigned must follow a two-step process in which it must first be determined whether there is an underlying medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s)- i.e., an impairment(s) that can be shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques-that could reasonably be expected to produce the claimant's pain or other symptoms.
Second, once an underlying physical or mental impairment(s) that could reasonably be expected to produce the claimant's pain or other symptoms has been shown, the undersigned must evaluate the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of the claimant's symptoms to determine the extent to which they limit the claimant's functioning. For this purpose, whenever statements about the intensity, persistence, or functionally limiting effects of pain or other symptoms are not substantiated by objective medical evidence, the undersigned must make a finding on the credibility of the statements based on a consideration of the entire case record.
Claimant alleges that he is limited in his ability to work due to a hernia, back problems, and problems with his right elbow. Claimant stated that he is unable to lift anything heavy; he gets tired easily, and is unable to walk far. Claimant stated that these impairments are what caused him to cease working.
...
Claimant testified that pain he experiences is an eight on a scale of one to ten, and the pain never goes away. The pain is in his lower back and radiates down to both of his legs almost to his ankles. The pain wakes claimant up at night. He tosses and turns all night. Claimant takes Lortab, Tramadol, Advil, and muscle relaxers. Claimant testified that he takes muscle relaxers three times daily. He stated that the medication makes him drowsy and puts him to sleep. Claimant stated that he lies down approximately three hours a day in the bed asleep. When he is not in the bed, he is in the recliner or on the couch for approximately three hours.
Claimant does not drive; he depends on his wife to drive. Claimant testified that he does not drive anymore because it hurts his lower back. Claimant's wife drove him 115 miles to the hearing. They left home at 5:30 a.m. and arrived at the hearing twenty minutes to 10:00 a.m. Claimant testified that his wife had to stop twice for approximately thirty minutes in order for him to get out and walk around. Claimant is unable to bend over and pick up a $100.00 bill off the floor or bend down to tie his shoes. Claimant is unable to stand very long, and sitting bothers him. Claimant testified that he is able to sit approximately thirty minutes before having to get up. Claimant cannot get in and out of the bathtub. Claimant is unable to lift a gallon of milk or a five-pound bag of sugar. Claimant is unable to climb ladders or scaffolds, and has to use handrails to go up and down stairs.
He spends his time with his wife, who is on dialysis, or with his son. During the day, he watches TV a lot.
...
Claimant spends most of his day at home sitting and watching television. Claimant will ride to the grocery store with his son and/or his wife. Claimant testified that he has not looked for work because he is unable to work anymore. Claimant did apply and received unemployment benefits in 2009 and early 2010. Claimant's wife manages th[e] checkbook and bills. Claimant does not receive food stamps or any other type of assistance.
Claimant completed a Function Report where he reported that when he wakes up, he lies around all day. He eats and sleeps because his back will not let him do too much. Claimant reported that he has some difficulty handling his personal needs. Claimant stated that his back hurts when he dresses, bathes, and uses the bathroom. If he drops something, it is hard for him to pick it up. Claimant prepares his own meals weekly. Claimant stated that it takes him a long time to prepare his meals. Claimant does light housekeeping chores like washing dishes. Claimant does not pay bills, count change, or use[] a checkbook. Claimant can handle a savings account. Claimant reported that he does not spend time with others. The only place claimant listed that he goes is church. Claimant reported that he cannot walk very far before needing to stop and rest. However, claimant is able to pay attention all day. Claimant follows written and verbal instructions very well. Claimant gets along with authority figures wells, handles stress well, and handles changes in routine well.
After careful consideration of the evidence, the undersigned finds that the claimant's medically determinable impairment could reasonably be expected to cause the alleged symptoms; however, the claimant's statements concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of these symptoms are not credible to the ...

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