United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
SCOTT COOLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
magistrate judge to whom this Social Security appeal was
previously assigned has entered a Report & Recommendation
recommending reversal of the Administrative Law Judge's
finding that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of
the Social Security Act under Listing 12.05C (mental
retardation) and remand with direction to award and calculate
benefits and other relief. (Doc. 12.) Neither party filed
objections to the Report & Recommendation within the time
allotted by the magistrate judge. This case was then
reassigned to the undersigned.
initial review, the undersigned stated that this Court was
not inclined to adopt and accept the magistrate judge's
Report & Recommendation and requested the parties'
respective positions on the matter through additional
briefing. The plaintiff then filed a brief in support of the
magistrate judge's Report & Recommendation (doc. 15),
and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
filed a brief in opposition (doc. 14).
now having thoroughly reviewed the entire administrative
record, and having the benefit of the parties' original
and supplemental briefs, this Court finds that the magistrate
judge's Report & Recommendation is not due to be
adopted and accepted. Rather, for the following reasons, the
decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration is due to be affirmed.
plaintiff, Clifford Baskin, appeals from the decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”) denying his applications for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), a period of
disability, and Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”). Mr. Baskin timely pursued and exhausted
his administrative remedies and the decision of the
Commissioner is ripe for review pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). More specifically, an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) initially denied
Mr. Baskin's applications in a decision issued on April
26, 2012. (Tr. at 159-75.) However, the Appeals Council
remanded the case to the ALJ on July 24, 2013, to develop the
record further. (Tr. at 176-80.) The ALJ then held a
supplemental hearing and issued a second denial decision on
May 15, 2014. (Tr. at 79-98, 104.) The Appeals Council denied
review on November 25, 2015, which deems the ALJ's
decision as the Commissioner's final decision. (Tr. at
Baskin was 42 years old at the time of the ALJ's
decision, and he attended school through the twelfth grade
but did not graduate, instead obtaining a certificate of
attendance. (Tr. at 294, 368.) His past work experiences
include employment as a hand bander, forklift operator,
construction worker, machine operator, and grocery bagger.
(Tr. at 96, 368-70, 400-07.) Mr. Baskin claims that he became
disabled on May 1, 2010, due to mental retardation, diabetes,
hypertension, and carpal tunnel syndrome. (Tr. at 294,
366-72, 377-85, 431-32.)
Social Security Administration has established a five-step
sequential evaluation process for determining whether an
individual is disabled and thus eligible for DIB or SSI.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920;
see also Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th
Cir. 2001). The evaluator will follow the steps in order
until making a finding of either disabled or not disabled; if
no finding is made, the analysis will proceed to the next
step. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4),
416.920(a)(4). The first step requires the evaluator to
determine whether the plaintiff is engaged in substantial
gainful activity (“SGA”). See Id.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). If the
plaintiff is not engaged in SGA, the evaluator moves on to
the next step.
second step requires the evaluator to consider the combined
severity of the plaintiff's medically determinable
physical and mental impairments. See Id.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). An
individual impairment or combination of impairments that is
not classified as “severe” and does not satisfy
the durational requirements set forth in 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1509 and 416.909 will result in a finding of
not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). The decision depends
on the medical evidence contained in the record. See Hart
v. Finch, 440 F.2d 1340, 1341 (5th Cir. 1971)
(concluding that “substantial medical evidence in the
record” adequately supported the finding that plaintiff
was not disabled).
the third step requires the evaluator to consider whether the
plaintiff's impairment or combination of impairments
meets or is medically equal to the criteria of an impairment
listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii),
416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the criteria of a listed impairment
and the durational requirements set forth in 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1509 and 416.909 are satisfied, the
evaluator will make a finding of disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii).
plaintiff's impairment or combination of impairments does
not meet or medically equal a listed impairment, the
evaluator must determine the plaintiff's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) before proceeding to
the fourth step. See Id. §§ 404.1520(e),
416.920(e). The fourth step requires the evaluator to
determine whether the plaintiff has the RFC to perform the
requirements of his past relevant work. See Id.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If the
plaintiff's impairment or combination of impairments does
not prevent him from performing his past relevant work, the
evaluator will make a finding of not disabled. See
fifth and final step requires the evaluator to consider the
plaintiff's RFC, age, education, and work experience in
order to determine whether the plaintiff can make an
adjustment to other work. See Id. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v). If the plaintiff can
perform other work, the evaluator will find him not disabled.
Id.; see also 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(g), 416.920(g). If the plaintiff cannot perform
other work, the evaluator will find him disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 404.1520(g),
the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found that Mr.
Baskin was insured through December 31, 2013. (Tr. at 85.) He
further determined that Mr. Baskin has not engaged in SGA
since the alleged onset of his disability. (Id.)
According to the ALJ, Plaintiff's diabetes with
neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, hypertension,
hyperlipidemia, hernia, obesity, and borderline intellectual
functioning are considered “severe” based on the
requirements set forth in the regulations. (Tr. at 85.)
However, he found that these impairments neither meet nor
medically equal any of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. at 86.) Further, he
determined that Mr. Baskin has the following RFC: he can
perform the exertional and nonexertional requirements of
sedentary work with these additional limitations: he can sit,
stand, and walk for six out of eight hours but should have a
sit/stand option; he can never climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds; he can occasionally push/pull with the upper right
extremity; he can occasionally climb ramps/stairs, balance,
kneel, crouch, crawl, and stoop; he can frequently reach,
handle, finger, and feel with the upper right extremity; he
cannot work at unprotected heights or walk on uneven terrain;
he should avoid work environments with poor ventilation,
extremes of heat and cold, and excessive noise or vibration;
he can understand, remember and carry out short and simple
instructions; perform simple, routine, repetitive tasks; and
deal with occasional, gradual changes in the workplace; yet,
he cannot read instructions, write reports, or perform math
calculations. (Tr. at 89-96).
to the ALJ at step four, Mr. Baskin is unable to perform any
of his past relevant work, he is a “younger individual
age 18-44, ” he has a “limited education, ”
and he is able to communicate in English, as those terms are
defined by the regulations. (Tr. at 96-97.) The ALJ then
enlisted a Vocational Expert (“VE”) to find at
step five that there are a significant number of jobs in the
national economy that Mr. Baskin is capable of performing,
such as machine tender, folder, and machine operator. (Tr. at
97-98.) The ALJ concluded his findings by stating that