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McNair v. Colvin

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

September 16, 2013

ANTHONY McNAIR, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, [1] Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

THOMAS M. DIGIROLAMO, Magistrate Judge.

Anthony McNair ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant") brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"), denying his claim for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.§§ 1381-83(c). Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Pl.'s Mot. Summ., ECF No. 14) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Def.'s Mot. Summ., ECF No. 20). No hearing is deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md.). For the reasons presented below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

I. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed his application for SSI on September 10, 2008 alleging disability since August 1, 2008 on the basis of an enlarged heart, diabetes and problems with his legs and shoulder. R. at 106-12, 140. His claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. R. at 81-84, 86-87. On June 9, 2010, a hearing was held before an administrative law judge ("ALJ") at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. R. at 28-71. Plaintiff was represented by counsel. In a decision dated June 24, 2010, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's request for benefits. R. at 14-23. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision subject to judicial review. R. at 1-5.

II. ALJ's Decision

The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's claim for SSI using the sequential process set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. At the first step, the ALJ determined that Claimant had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date. At step two, the ALJ determined that Claimant suffered from the following severe impairments: cardiomyopathy, diabetes mellitus, vision loss, and obstructive sleep apnea. At step three, the ALJ found that his impairments did not meet or equal the Listings of Impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt, P, app. 1. The ALJ concluded at step four that, given his Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC") Plaintiff was not capable of performing his past relevant work. At step five, the ALJ concluded that Claimant was capable of performing jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy. Accordingly, he concluded that Claimant was not disabled. R. at 14-23.

III. Standard of Review

The role of this court on review is to determine whether substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's decision and whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)(1994 & Supp. V 1999); Pass v. Chater, 65 F.3d 1200, 1202 (4th Cir. 1995); Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). It is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance, of the evidence presented. Shively v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 987, 989 (4th Cir. 1984). It is such evidence that a reasonable mind might accept to support a conclusion, and must be sufficient to justify a refusal to direct a verdict if the case were before a jury. Hays, 907 F.2d at 1456 (quoting Laws v. Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640, 642 (4th Cir. 1966)). This court cannot try the case de novo or resolve evidentiary conflicts, but rather must affirm a decision supported by substantial evidence. Id.

IV. Discussion

Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred (1) at step two of the sequential evaluation; (2) in his RFC assessment; and (3) in the formulation of the hypothetical to the VE.

A. Step Two

Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in finding that his left shoulder impairment and leg and knee pain did not constitute severe impairments. The ALJ found that these impairments "do not minimally affect the claimant's ability to function on a daily living." R. at 18. He observed that these impairments only appear vaguely in the medical record and that there was no record of lasting treatment for foot pain, leg pain and headaches. With respect to his left shoulder, Plaintiff directs the Court's attention to two pieces of evidence: the opinion of consultative examiner, Dr. Karpers, who indicated that Plaintiff had limited range of motion of his left shoulder, R. at 424-25, and the resulting medical consultant's opinion that he had limited reaching in all directions. R. at 431. The ALJ specifically noted Dr. Karpers opinion regarding the limitation in rotation of the left shoulder and found it to be "highly suspect" because the record does not demonstrate complaints on behalf of the Claimant and that it did not seem to interfere with his past work since this impairment affected Claimant since 1984 (a fact that Claimant does not dispute). R. at 17. Claimant does not point to any other evidence or explain precisely how his shoulder significantly limits his ability to do basic work activities. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c) (1998)[2].

Similarly, Plaintiff argues that his leg and knee pain should have been found severe and cites his treating physician's opinion that he met Listing 1.02A involving the major dysfunction of a joint because he had experienced chronic bilateral knee pain with knee swelling for several years which limits his ambulation and mobility. R. at 481. He also points to complaints in the record of pain as well as the fact that he had used a cane. R. at 46, 440, 445-46, 455. The ALJ thoroughly discussed the complaints. He specifically noted that with respect to his knee condition, it was mentioned only "vaguely" in the record and when discussed, mostly in the historical context. R. at 17; see also R. at 424 (range of motion in lower extremities intact); R. at 362 (no edema in extremities); R. at 383 (no edema bilaterally). Plaintiff also does not dispute the ALJ's ...


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