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Henderson v. Social Security Administration, Commissioner

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division

April 24, 2019

LARRY M. HENDERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Commissioner, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          STACI G. CORNELIUS U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         The plaintiff, Larry M. Henderson, appeals from the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the “Commissioner”) denying his applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). Henderson timely pursued and exhausted his administrative remedies, and the Commissioner's decision is ripe for review pursuant to 42 U.S.C §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). For the reasons discussed below, the Commissioner's decision is due to be reversed and remanded.

         I. Procedural History

         Henderson has a high school education and has previously worked as a sandblaster and a cook. (Tr. at 84-85, 228). In his applications for DIB and SSI, Henderson alleged he became disabled on October 1, 2014, as a result of motorcycle accident injuries and a steel rod in his leg. (Id. at 227). After his claims were denied, Henderson requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (Id. at 128). Following a hearing, the ALJ denied Henderson's claims. (Id. at 10-17). Henderson was fifty-three years old when the ALJ issued his decision. (Id. at 17, 102). After the Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision (id. at 1-3), that decision became the final decision of the Commissioner, see Frye v. Massanari, 209 F.Supp.2d 1246, 1251 (N.D. Ala. 2001) (citing Falge v. Apfel, 150 F.3d 1320, 1322 (11th Cir. 1998)). Thereafter, Henderson commenced this action. (Doc. 1).[2]

         II. Statutory and Regulatory Framework

         To establish eligibility for disability benefits, a claimant must show “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i)(1)(A), 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505(a), 416.905(a). Furthermore, a DIB claimant must show he was disabled between his alleged initial onset date and his date last insured. Mason v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 430 Fed.Appx. 830, 831 (11th Cir. 2011) (citing Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1209, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005); Demandre v. Califano, 591 F.2d 1088, 1090 (5th Cir. 1979)). The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) employs a five-step sequential analysis to determine an individual's eligibility for disability benefits. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4).

         First, the Commissioner must determine whether the claimant is engaged in “substantial gainful activity.” Id. at §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). If the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, the Commissioner will find the claimant is not disabled. Id. at §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i) and (b), 416.920(a)(4)(i) and (b). At the first step, the ALJ determined Henderson met the Social Security Administration's insured status requirements through June 30, 2015, and has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date of October 1, 2014. (Tr. at 12).

         If the claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful activity, the Commissioner must next determine whether the claimant suffers from a severe physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments that has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). If the claimant does not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments, the Commissioner will find the claimant is not disabled. Id. at §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii) and (c), 416.920(a)(4)(ii) and (c). At the second step, the ALJ determined Henderson has the following severe impairments: osteoarthritis and the residual effects of a leg fracture. (Tr. at 12).

         If the claimant has a severe impairment or combination of impairments, the Commissioner must then determine whether the impairment or combination of impairments meets or equals one of the “Listings” found in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments meets or equals one of the Listings, the Commissioner will find the claimant is disabled. Id. at §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii) and (d), 416.920(a)(4)(iii) and (d). At the third step, the ALJ determined Henderson does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the Listings. (Tr. at 12-13).

         If the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments does not meet or equal one of the Listings, the Commissioner must determine the claimant's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) before proceeding to the fourth step. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). At the fourth step, the Commissioner will compare an assessment of the claimant's RFC with the physical and mental demands of the claimant's past relevant work. Id. at §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv) and (e), 416.920(a)(4)(iv) and (e). If the claimant is capable of performing his past relevant work, the Commissioner will find the claimant is not disabled. Id. at §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv).

         Before proceeding to the fourth step, the ALJ determined Henderson has the RFC to perform a full range of light work.[3] (Tr. at 13-15). At the fourth step, the ALJ determined Henderson is not able to perform his past relevant work. (Id. at 15-16).

         If the claimant is unable to perform his past relevant work, the Commissioner must finally determine whether the claimant is capable of performing other work that exists in substantial numbers in the national economy in light of the claimant's RFC, age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v) and (g)(1), 416.920(a)(4)(v) and (g)(1). If the claimant is capable of performing other work, the Commissioner will find the claimant is not disabled. Id. at §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v) and (g)(1), 416.920(a)(4)(v) and (g)(1). If the claimant is not capable of performing other work, the Commissioner will find the claimant is disabled. Id. at §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v) and (g)(1), 416.920(a)(4)(v) and (g)(1).

         At the fifth step, considering Henderson's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Henderson can perform and that Medical-Vocational Rule 202.14 directed a finding of “not disabled.” (Tr. at 16). Therefore, the ALJ concluded Brown is not disabled. (Id. at 16-17).

         III. ...


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