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Tinney v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Maryland.

August 22, 2016

FRANKLIN EUGENE TINNEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          A. David Copperthite United States Magistrate Judge

         On October 28, 2015, Franklin Eugene Tinney ("Plaintiff") petitioned this court to review the Social Security Administration's ("SSA") final decision to deny his claim for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). See ECF No. 1 ("the Complaint"). After consideration of the Complaint and each parties respective motions for summary judgment (ECF Nos. 14, 19, 22), die Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). In addition, for the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14) is DENIED, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 19) is DENIED, and the Court REMANDS this matter for further consideration.

         Case Background

         On March 24, 2010, Plaintiff filed a Title II application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits and a Title XVI application for supplemental security income. In both claims. Plaintiff alleged disability beginning on October 10, 2009. Both claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration on June 1, 2010 and October 21, 2010, respectively. Subsequently, on December 2, 2010, Plaintiff filed a written request for a hearing. On November 10, 2011, a video hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge. Following that hearing, on December 30, 2011, the ALJ rendered a decision denying Plaintiffs claims for DIB and SSI. ECF No. 11 at 124. Thereafter, Plaintiff requested review of the decision and, on February 20, 2013, the Appeals Council vacated the ALFs decision and remanded the case for another hearing. On January 15, 2014, the second hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ('"ALJ"). On March 27, 2014, the ALJ rendered a decision denying Plaintiffs claims for DIB and SSI determining that Plaintiff "has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from October 10, 2009. through the date of this decision (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g))." ECF No. 11 at 22. Thereafter, on May 13, 2014, Plaintiff requested review of the second decision, and on September 4, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request for review. Thus, the decision rendered by the ALJ at the second hearing became the final decision of the Commissioner. See C.F.R. § 416.1481; see also Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).

         On October 28, 2015, Plaintiff filed the Complaint in this Court seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision.[1] On March 7, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. On July 5, 2016. Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. On July 21, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Reply to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. This matter is now fully briefed and the Court has reviewed Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgement, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, and Plaintiffs Reply.

         Disability Determinations and Birden of Proof

         In order to be eligible for DIB, a claimant must establish that he is under disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act. The term "disability.*" for purposes of the Social Security Act. is defined as the "[i]nability 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 has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505, 416.905. A claimant shall be determined to be under disability where "his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such a severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy[.]" 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B).

         In determining whether a claimant has a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act, the Commissioner follows the five-step evaluation process outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920: see Barnhart v. Thomas, 540 U.S. 20, 24 (2003). The evaluation process is sequential, meaning that, "[i]f at any step a finding of disability or non-disability can be made, the [Commissioner] will not review the claim further." Barnhart v. Thomas, 540 U.S. at 24; see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4).

         At step one, the Commissioner considers the claimant's work activity to determine if the claimant is engaged in "substantial gainful activity." 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). If the claimant is engaged in "substantial gainful activity, " then the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), 404.1520(b), 416.920(a)(4)(i), 416.920(b).

         At step two, the Commissioner considers whether the claimant has a "severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment [or combination of impairments] that meets the duration requirement[.]" 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). If the claimant does not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments, then the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(h), 404.1520(c), 416.920(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(c).

         At step three, the Commissioner considers the medical severity of the impairment. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the impairment meets or equals one of the presumptively disabling impairments listed in the Code of Federal Regulations, then the claimant is considered disabled, regardless of the claimant's age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 404.1520(d), 416.920(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(d); see Radford v. Colvin, 734 F.3d 288. 291 (4th Cir. 2013).

         At step four, the Commissioner will assess the claimant's residual functional capacity ("RFC") to determine the claimant's ability to perform past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant can still perform past relevant work, then the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 404.1520(e), 416.920(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(e).

         At steps one through four of the evaluation, the claimant has the burden of proof. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; see Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 (1987); see also Radford, 734 F.3d at 291. At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to prove: (1) that there is other work that the claimant can do, given the claimant's age, education, work experience, and RFC (as determined at step four), and; (2) that such alternative work exists in significant numbers in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v); See Hancock v. Astrue, 667 F.3d 470, 472-73 (4th Cir. 2012); See also Walls v. Barnhart. 296 F.3d 287, 290 (4th Cir. 2002). If the claimant can perform other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy, then the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 404.1520(g)(1), 404.1560(c), 416.920(a)(4)(v). If the claimant cannot perform other work, then the claimant is disabled. Id.

         ALJ ...


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