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Kendrick v. Social Security Administration, Commissioner

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

September 24, 2019

DONALD C. KENDRICK, Plaintiff,
v.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Commissioner, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION[1]

          STACI G. CORNELIUS U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The plaintiff, Donald Kendrick, appeals from the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the “Commissioner”) denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). Kendrick 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 affirmed.

         I. Procedural History

         Kendrick has a tenth grade education and has previously been employed as a highway worker, pet supply salesperson, and store laborer. (Tr. at 23, 187). In his application for DIB, Kendrick alleged he became disabled on September 27, 2015, as a result of osteoarthritis, a knee replacement, surgery on both elbows, four surgeries on his left shoulder, and depression. (Id. at 81-82). After his claims were denied, Kendrick requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (Id. at 99-100). Following a hearing, the ALJ denied Kendrick’s claims. (Id. at 16-25). Kendrick was fifty-five years old when the ALJ issued his decision. (Id. at 25, 81). After the Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ’s decision (id. at 1-4), 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, Kendrick commenced this action. (Doc. 1).

         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); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). Furthermore, a 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 F. App’x 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).

         First, the Commissioner must determine whether the claimant is engaged in “substantial gainful activity.” Id. at § 404.1520(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). At the first step, the ALJ determined Kendrick last met the Social Security Administration’s insured status requirements on March 31, 2016, and did not engage in substantial gainful activity between his alleged disability onset date of September 27, 2015 and his date last insured. (Tr. at 18).

         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). 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). At the second step, the ALJ determined that through his date last insured Kendrick had the following severe impairments: obesity, status post-2015 right knee replacement, and osteoarthritis. (Tr. at 18).

         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). 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). At the third step, the ALJ determined Kendrick did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the Listings through his date last insured. (Tr. at 20).

         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). 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). 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).

         Before proceeding to the fourth step, the ALJ determined that through his date last insured Kendrick had the RFC to perform light work with the following limitations: he could never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds or work around hazards; he could only frequently climb ramps or stairs; and he could only occasionally kneel or crawl. (Tr. at 20).[2] At the fourth step, the ALJ determined Kendrick was not able to perform his past relevant work through his date last insured. (Id. at 23).

         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). 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). 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).

         At the fifth step, considering Kendrick’s age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined there were jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy that Kendrick could have performed through his date last insured, such as those of marker, casing tier, and button reclaimer. (Tr. at 24).

         Therefore, the ALJ concluded Kendrick was not disabled through his date ...


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