United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Jasper Division
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Ralph Cain (“Plaintiff” or “Cain”)
brings this action pursuant to Sections 205(g) and 1631(c)(3)
of the Social Security Act (the “Act”). Plaintiff
seeks review of the decision by the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”)
to deny his claim for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). See 42 U.S.C. §§
405(g) and 1383(c). Based on the court's review of the
record and the briefs submitted by the parties, the court
finds that the decision of the Commissioner is due to be
filed his applications for DIB and SSI on March 12, 2013,
alleging disability beginning August 22, 2012. (Tr. 19, 118).
The claim was initially denied on June 24, 2013. (Tr. 19).
After his application was denied, Plaintiff filed a written
request for hearing pursuant to 20 CFR § 416.1429 et
seq. (Tr. 19). On July 9, 2014, Plaintiff received a
video hearing before Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) George W. Merchant. (Tr. 19, 27). The ALJ
determined that Plaintiff was not disabled under Section
1614(a)(3)(A) of the Act. (Tr. 27).
26, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review of the ALJ decision. (Tr. 1). Following that
denial, the final decision of the Commissioner became a
proper subject of this court's appellate review. See
Chester v. Bowen 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986)
(finding the ALJ decision final for purposes of judicial
review when the Appeals Council denied review).
Ralph Cain was 54 years old at the time of the hearing. (Tr.
39). He attended school through the tenth grade, but
testified that he reads and writes only “very simple
words.” (Tr. 38-39, 42, 54, 184). He previously worked
for K&H Trucking doing heavy lifting and manual labor,
changing oil, changing tires, and generally performing the
duties of a mechanic's helper on diesel-type equipment.
(Tr. 38-40, 49). He also worked for Southern Energy Homes as
a manufactured buildings assembler, a medium exertional job.
(Tr. 40, 49, 54-57). Plaintiff alleges that he has not been
able work since August 22, 2012 due to injuries in his arms,
back, and collarbone, hernias, and high blood pressure. (Tr.
38, 40-46, 152, 183).
experienced an on-the-job work injury in August
from which maintains he continues to have some residual
effects. Plaintiff was putting air in a truck tire when the
tire exploded and struck him. (Tr. 34, 41, 46, 267, 270).
“And it undoubtedly was a defective rim, and it come
off, and blowed me about 45 feet in the air from the shock,
and I had to be ambulanced out of there …” (Tr.
41). The rim crushed his dominant left hand which now
“…stays numb all the time” and makes
Plaintiff unable to grip things. (Tr. 41, 319). The doctor
report from the day of the incident indicates that Plaintiff
had “…taken more of a blow to his left
arm.” (Tr. 270). Plaintiff continued to go to the
doctor's office and physical therapy as recommended and,
on December 16, 2002, the doctor stated that
“…he can go to full duty” without any
restrictions, but with a 5% whole man
impairment. (Tr. 267).
than testimonial assertions, the medical record contains no
documentation for ten years, from 2002 until
2012. During that period of time, Plaintiff
continued to work despite the nerve damage issues from the
on-the-job injury. (Tr. 21, 43, 267). Plaintiff presented to
the emergency room at Walker Baptist Medical Center with
sudden abdominal pain on August 23, 2012. (Tr. 217-27).
Plaintiff had been lifting heavy tires at work and noticed a
bulge and pain in the left inguinal region. (Tr. 49, 218). He
was diagnosed with a left inguinal hernia and was instructed
to make an appointment with surgeon Dr. Matthew Knight. (Tr.
220). Plaintiff was again seen at the same emergency room,
for the same left inguinal hernia, on August 27, 2012 because
he had run out of pain medication and had not yet seen the
surgeon for repair of the hernia. (Tr. 206-16).
was seen for a consultation with Dr. Billy Richardson on
September 27, 2012. (Tr. 232). A CT scan was performed of
Plaintiff's abdomen and pelvis, which revealed a probable
hernia in the left inguinal area. (Tr. 232, 237). Mild
inflammation of Plaintiff's colon, consistent with mild
diverticulitis, was noted and Plaintiff was put on
antibiotics. (Tr. 232, 237). At this appointment, Plaintiff
was encouraged to establish care for high blood pressure.
October 1, 2012, Plaintiff went to Capstone Rural Health
Center to establish care for hypertension. (Tr. 243). Notes
from that visit state “Patient states he passed out 1-2
weeks ago. He was told by paramedics he had HTN
[hypertension]. hx of high blood pressure. States needs to
have hernia surgery but cannot due to elevated blood
pressure.” (Tr. 243). Plaintiff was prescribed
Lisinopril for high blood pressure. (Tr. 244). Plaintiff
returned to Capstone Rural Health Center on October 15, 2012
for a follow-up appointment and stated that he was feeling
much better. (Tr. 241). He was again seen on November 13,
2012 for a refill of Lisinopril. (Tr. 240).
followed up with Dr. Richardson on October 15, 2012 and
stated that his abdominal pain was much improved, still with
some tenderness and bulging in the left inguinal area. (Tr.
232). On October 23, 2012, Plaintiff had surgery for the
recurrent inguinal hernia, which was repaired with
extra-large mesh and plug. (Tr. 229-30).
uses a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine a
claimant's disability. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a) and
416.920(a). First, the ALJ must determine whether the
claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(b) and 416.920(b). Substantial gainful
activity is work done for pay or profit that requires
significant physical or mental activities. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1572(a-b) and 416.972(a-b). If the claimant has
employment earnings above a certain threshold, the ability to
engage in substantial gainful activity is generally presumed.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1574, 404.1575, 416.974, and 416.975. If
the ALJ finds that the claimant engages in substantial
gainful activity, then the claimant cannot claim disability,
regardless of a medical condition or age, education, and work
experience. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b) and 416.920(b).
the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has a
medically-determinable impairment that significantly limits
the claimant's ability to perform basic work activities.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c) and 416.920(a)(4)(ii). Absent
such impairment, the claimant may not claim disability.
Id. Third, the ALJ must determine whether the
claimant's impairment meets or functionally equals an
impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1. If the criteria ...