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Mahan v. Berryhill

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

August 24, 2017

DAVID ALLEN MAHAN, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1]Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          P. BRADLEY MURRAY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff David Allen Mahan, Jr., 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 ("the Commissioner") denying his claim for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act ("the Act") and for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"), based on disability, under Title XVI of the Act. 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. (Doc. 21 ("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, Mahan's brief, the Commissioner's brief, and oral argument presented at the August 15, 2017 hearing before the undersigned Magistrate Judge, it is determined that the Commissioner's decision denying benefits should be affirmed.[2]

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Mahan applied for DIB, under Title II of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 423-425, and for SSI, based on disability, under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383d, on April 24, 2013, alleging disability beginning on March 15, 2013. (Tr. 142-51). His application was denied at the initial level of administrative review on September 17, 2013. (Tr. 98). On November 15, 2013, Mahan requested a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Tr. 99-100). After a hearing was held on September 24, 2014, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding that Mahan was not under a disability from the date the application was filed through the date of the decision, February 13, 2015. (Tr. 15-27). Mahan appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council, and, on July 27, 2016, the Appeals Council denied his request for review of the ALJ's decision, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-3).

         After exhausting his administrative remedies, Mahan sought judicial review in this Court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c). (Doc. 1). The Commissioner filed an answer and the social security transcript on December 15, 2016. (Docs. 10, 12). Both parties filed briefs setting forth their respective positions. (Docs. 14, 18). Oral argument was held before the undersigned Magistrate Judge on August 15, 2017. The case is now ripe for decision.

         II. CLAIMS ON APPEAL

         Mahan alleges that the ALJ's decision to deny him benefits is in error for the following reasons:

1. The ALJ erroneously failed to assess all of Mahan's mental impairments when formulating his residual functional capacity (RFC); and
2. The ALJ erroneously failed to fulfill the duty to develop the record by not ordering an updated consultative psychological examination.

(Doc. 14 at pp. 1-2).

         III. BACKGROUND FACTS

         Mahan was born on August 26, 1978, and was 34 years old at the time he filed his claim for benefits. (Tr. 142). He alleged disability due to a learning disability (not being able to read), a left shoulder injury, and depression. (Tr. 43-45, 177, 203). He graduated from high school, but was in special education classes. (Tr. 38, 178). He can read very little, but can do simple math and knows how to use a calculator. (Tr. 39-40). He is not able to pay bills, count change, handle a savings account, or use a checkbook because he "can't read." (Tr. 39-40, 186). He participated in job training in maintenance through Job Corps in 2000. (Tr. 39, 178). He has worked as a custodian, a crane company helper, a manual laborer, a groundskeeper/maintenance man, and a satellite installer. (Tr. 40-41, 178). Mahan last worked on March 15, 2013. (Tr. 177). He testified that he has had job opportunities, but has not been able to pass the tests required for the jobs. (Tr. 42).

         At the time of the hearing before the ALJ on September 24, 2014, Mahan lived with his wife and thirteen month old child. (Tr. 38). During the relevant time period, he engaged in normal life activities; such as, handling his personal care, taking care of his son while his wife was at work, feeding and bathing the family dogs, helping clean the house by sweeping and mopping, mowing the yard with a riding lawn mower, making minor repairs to the house, running errands, grocery shopping, and running the sound equipment at church on Sunday. (Tr. 45-49, 183-86). He enjoys fishing, taking care of his dogs, watching television, and handy man activities that he can perform with his limitation of not being able to lift over 30 pounds. (Tr. 187).

         After conducting a hearing, the ALJ made a determination that Mahan had not been under a disability during the relevant time period, and thus, was not entitled to benefits. (Tr. 16-41).

         IV. ALJ'S DECISION

         After considering all of the evidence, the ALJ made the following findings that are relevant to the issues presented in her February 13, 2015 decision:

3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: history of left shoulder injury, mild anxiety and depression, and reading disorder (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 the severity of 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).
* * *
The evidence does not demonstrate that the claimant has valid IQ scores of 70 or below or mental impairments that cause marked restriction of [his] activities of daily living, marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning, marked difficulties maintaining concentration, persistence or pace, or repeated episodes of decompensation of extended duration, as required by Sections 12.02, 12.04 and 12.05 of the Listings (Exhibit 7F).
The severity of the claimant's mental impairments, considered singly and in combination, do not meet or medically equal the criteria of Medical Listings 12.04 and 12.06. In making this finding, the undersigned has considered whether the "paragraph B" criteria are satisfied. To satisfy the "paragraph B" criteria, the mental impairments must result in at least two of the following: marked restriction of activities of daily living; marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning; marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; or repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration. A marked limitation means more than moderate but less than extreme. Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration, means three episodes within 1 year, or an average of once every 4 months, each lasting for at least 2 weeks.
In activities of daily living, the claimant has none restriction. The claimant is capable of initiating and participating in activities such as cleaning, shopping, and maintaining a residence independent of supervision or direction. While the claimant's impairment may interfere with complex activities, the performance of a simple routine is appropriate, effective and sustainable (Exhibits 4F, 5F, and 7F).
In social functioning, the claimant has mild difficulties. The claimant is able to initiate social contacts, communicate clearly, participate in group activities and demonstrate cooperative behaviors. Medical evaluations, discussed below, contain indication of at least some difficulty. Nonetheless, the evidence does not ...

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