Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Mallett v. Berryhill

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

July 26, 2019

RONNIE MALLETT, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant,

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          John E. Ott Chief United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Ronnie Mallett 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”) under the Social Security Act. (Doc. 1).[1] Mallett timely pursued and exhausted his administrative remedies, and the Commissioner's decision is ripe for review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For the reasons discussed below, the court finds that the Commissioner's decision is due to be affirmed.[2]

         I. Procedural History

         At the time of the hearing Mallett was 53 years old. (R. 41). He completed the ninth grade and has past relevant work as a truck driver. (R. 30, 41). Mallett alleges he became disabled on October 24, 2014. (R. 22).[3] Mallett claims he could no longer work due to a lower back injury, problems with his neck, diabetes, and high blood pressure. (R. 198). After his claims were denied initially, he requested a hearing before an ALJ. (R. 22). Following the hearing, the ALJ denied his claim. (R. 22-31).

         Mallett appealed the decision to the Appeals Council (“AC”). After reviewing the record, the AC declined to further review the ALJ's decision. (R. 7-9). That decision became the final decision of the Commissioner and is now ripe for review. 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)).

         II. Statutory and Regulatory Framework

         To establish his 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); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). The Social Security Administration employs a five-step sequential analysis to determine an individual's eligibility for disability benefits. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a) & 416.920(b).

         First, the Commissioner must determine whether the claimant is engaged in “substantial gainful activity.” Id. “Under the first step, the claimant has the burden to show that []he is not currently engaged in substantial gainful activity.” Reynolds-Buckley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 457 Fed.Appx. 862, 863 (11th Cir. 2012).[4] If the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, the Commissioner will determine the claimant is not disabled. At the first step, the ALJ determined Mallett had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 24, 2014. (R. 25).

         If a 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(c) & 416.920(c). An impairment “must result from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which can be shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” See Id. at § 404.1502. Furthermore, it “must be established by medical evidence consisting of signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings, not only by [the claimant's] statement of symptoms.” Id.; see also 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(3). An impairment is severe if it “significantly limits [the claimant's] physical or mental ability to do basic work activities . . . .” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c).[5] “[A]n impairment can be considered as not severe only if it is a slight abnormality which has such a minimal effect on the individual that it would not be expected to interfere with the individual's ability to work, irrespective of age, education, or work experience.” Brady v. Heckler, 724 F.2d 914, 920 (11th Cir. 1984); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1521(a). A claimant may be found disabled based on a combination of impairments, even though none of her individual impairments alone is disabling. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1523. The claimant bears the burden of providing medical evidence demonstrating an impairment and its severity. Id. at § 404.1512(a) and (c). If the claimant does not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments, the Commissioner will determine the claimant is not disabled. Id. at § & 404.920(c) & 404.1520(a)(4)(ii) and (c). At the second step, the ALJ determined Mallett has the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus type II, hypertension, and a prior history of stroke. (R. 25).

         If the claimant has a severe impairment or combination of impairments, the Commissioner must then determine whether the impairment meets or equals one of the “Listings” found in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. 20 C.F.R. § 404.920(a)(4)(iii) & (d) and § 416.920(d). The claimant bears the burden of proving his impairment meets or equals one of the Listings. Reynolds-Buckley, 457 Fed.Appx. at 863. If the claimant's impairment meets or equals one of the Listings, the Commissioner will determine the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii) and (d). At the third step, the ALJ determined Mallett did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meet or medically equal the severity of one of the Listings. (R. 25).

         If the claimant's impairment 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). A claimant's RFC is the most he or she can do despite his impairment. See Id. at § 404.1545(a)(1) & 416.945(a). At the fourth step, the Commissioner will compare the 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 416.945(a)(4)(iv). “Past relevant work is work that [the claimant] [has] done within the past 15 years, that was substantial gainful activity, and that lasted long enough for [the claimant] to learn to do it.” Id. § 404.1560(b)(1) and 416.960(b)(1). The claimant bears the burden of proving that her impairment prevents him from performing her past relevant work. Reynolds-Buckley, 457 Fed.Appx. at 863. If the claimant is capable of performing his past relevant work, the Commissioner will determine the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 404.1560(b), 416.945(a)(4(iv).

         Before proceeding to the fourth step, the ALJ determined Mallett has the RFC to perform a limited range of light work. (R. at 26-30). More specifically, the ALJ found Mallett had the following limitations with regard to light work, as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) & 416.967(b):

[the claimant can] lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; sit for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday and stand/walk for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. The claimant can push/pull as much as he can lift/carry; occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; and never work at unprotected heights.

(R. at 26). At the fourth step, the ALJ determined Mallett would not be able to perform his past relevant work as a sander, truck driver, or trash collector. (R. at 30).

         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) & (g)(1), 404.1560(c)(1), 404.920(a)(4)(v) & (g)(1). If the claimant is capable of performing other work, the Commissioner will determine the claimant is not disabled. Id.at ยง 404.1520(a)(4)(v) ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.