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Hunter v. Berryhill

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

February 11, 2019

JONATHAN L. HUNTER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          P. BRADLEY MURRAY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Jonathan L. Hunter brings this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his claim for supplemental security income benefits. 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. 20 & 21 (“In accordance with 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 parties' arguments at the February 5, 2018 hearing before the undersigned, the Court concludes that the Commissioner's decision denying benefits should be affirmed.[1]

         I. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income benefits on December 29, 2014, alleging disability beginning on June 14, 2014. (See Tr. 173-77.) Hunter's claim was initially denied on March 11, 2015 (Tr. 94 & 97-100) and, following Plaintiff's March 26, 2015 request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) (Tr. 105; see also Tr. 106-08 (SSA notice that it received the request for hearing on April 3, 2015)), a hearing was conducted before an ALJ on December 21, 2016 (Tr.32-84). On May 2, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding that the claimant was not disabled and, therefore, not entitled to supplemental security income benefits. (Tr. 10-18.) More specifically, the ALJ determined at the fifth step of the five-step sequential evaluation process that Hunter retains the residual functional capacity to perform those sedentary jobs identified by the vocational expert (“VE”) during the administrative hearing (compare Id. at 12-17 with Tr. 79-81). On June 24, 2017, the Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's unfavorable decision to the Appeals Council (see Tr. 155); the Appeals Council denied Hunter's request for review on February 26, 2018 (Tr. 1-3). Thus, the hearing decision became the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security.

         Plaintiff alleges disability due to inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn's Disease. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) made the following relevant findings:

2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: inflammatory bowel disease and Crohns disease (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 for lifting 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently; carrying 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently; sitting for 6 hours, standing for 2 hours, and walking for 2 hours; the claimant can climb ramps and stairs occasionally; he can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; and he can balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl occasionally. The claimant can never work at unprotected heights, and never work with moving mechanical parts.
. . .
5. The claimant has no past relevant work (20 CFR 416.965).
. . .
6. The claimant was born on September 1, 1987 and was 27 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44, on the date the ...

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