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Handley v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 8, 2014

GREGORY HANDLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

THOMAS M. DIGIROLAMO, Magistrate Judge.

Gregory Handley ("Plaintiff") seeks judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or the "Commissioner") denying his application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act. Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 12) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16).[1] Plaintiff contends that the administrative record does not contain substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision that he is not disabled. No hearing is necessary. L.R. 105.6. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16) is GRANTED, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 12) is DENIED, and the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.

I

Background

Plaintiff was born in 1957, has one year of a college education, and previously worked as a heavy equipment mechanic. R. at 14, 25-26, 136, 143. Plaintiff applied for DIB on September 5, 2009, alleging disability beginning on March 16, 2000 (later amended to December 31, 2006, the date last insured), due to a back injury. R. at 9, 12, 110-13, 123. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application initially and again on reconsideration; consequently, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). R. at 47-54, 61-65. On October 6, 2011, ALJ C.J. Sturek held a hearing in Washington, D.C., at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. R. at 20-46. On October 17, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled since the amended alleged onset date of disability of December 31, 2006. R. at 6-19. Plaintiff sought review of this decision by the Appeals Council, which denied Plaintiff's request for review on January 31, 2013. R. at 1-5. The ALJ's decision thus became the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981; see also Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07, 120 S.Ct. 2080, 2083 (2000).

On April 3, 2013, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court seeking review of the Commissioner's decision. Upon the parties' consent, this case was transferred to a United States Magistrate Judge for final disposition and entry of judgment. The case subsequently was reassigned to the undersigned. The parties have briefed the issues, and the matter is now fully submitted.

II

Summary of Evidence

A. State Agency Medical Consultant

On August 4, 2010, S.K. Najar, M.D., a state agency medical consultant, assessed Plaintiff's physical residual functional capacity ("RFC"). R. at 472-79. Dr. Najar opined that Plaintiff could (1) lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; (2) stand and/or walk for a total of about six hours in an eight-hour workday; (3) sit for about six hours in an eight-hour workday; and (4) perform unlimited pushing and/or pulling. R. at 473. Plaintiff occasionally could stoop and crawl and frequently could balance, kneel, crouch, and climb ramps and stairs (but never ladders, ropes, or scaffolds). R. at 474. Plaintiff had no manipulative, visual, communicative, or environmental limitations, however. R. at 475-76.

B. Hearing Testimony

1. Plaintiff's Testimony

In his decision, the ALJ reviewed Plaintiff's testimony:

[Plaintiff] testified that he stopped working due [to] his impairments that resulted from a work (back) injury that occurred in 2006. Treatment has included a muscle relaxer that eased his pain within an hour, and had no side-effects. However, he slept only 4-5 hours nightly, as well as about one hour 3-4 times daily.
He further testified that [he] could neither any longer go fishing after the 2006 injury, nor tie his shoes. He has had to continuously... wear back support(s).
[Plaintiff] alleges that his physical impairments restrict his ability to function on a daily basis and perform work-related activities. He alleges an inability to stand, sit, walk, climb, carry objects, and perform other exertional activities.
....

[Plaintiff] testified that his movement up and down stairs has not been a problem. He has not had balance problems. He stated that he has been able to do some household chores, including doing light laundry. He has not had a problem with personal care, such as dressing or bathing.

He has ordinarily watched TV and done some reading in a reclining chair. He has visited with others and attended church every ...


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