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Amick v. Social Security Administration

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

September 25, 2019

JEFFREY AMICK, Plaintiff,
v.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Commissioner, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION[1]

          STACI G. CORNELIUS, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

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

         Amick has a high school education and has previously been employed as a delivery driver for United Parcel Service. (Tr. at 205, 234). In his application for DIB, Amick alleged he became disabled on October 1, 2012, as a result of a back injury and Ménière’s disease. (Id. at 87).[2] After his claim was denied, Amick requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (Id. at 101). Following a hearing, the ALJ denied Amick’s claim. (Id. at 18-28).[3] Amick was fifty years old when the ALJ issued her decision. (Id. at 28, 86). 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, Amick 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 Amick would meet the Social Security Administration’s insured status requirements through June 30, 2019, and had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 1, 2012. (Tr. at 20).

         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 Amick has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, Ménière’s disease, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, gastroesophageal reflux disease, allergic rhinitis, sensorineural hearing loss, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, tinnitus, obesity, spondylolisthesis, sciatica, and peroneal tendinopathy. (Tr. at 20-21).

         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 Amick does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the Listings. (Tr. at 21).

         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 Amick has the RFC to perform a limited range of light work. (Tr. at 22-23).[4] At the fourth step, the ALJ determined Amick is not able to perform his past relevant work. (Id. at 26).

         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 Amick’s age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined there were jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy that Amick could perform through his date last insured, such as those of mail clerk, marker, and garment sorter. (Tr. at 27, 81). Therefore, the ALJ concluded Amick is not disabled. (Id. at 27-28).

         III. Stan ...


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