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Kelley v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

May 1, 2017

SPENCER LEE KELLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          PAUL D STICKNEY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Spencer Lee Kelley (“Plaintiff”) brings this action for judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's (“Commissioner”) final decision denying his claims for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, pursuant to Title 42, United States Code, Section 405(g). For the following reasons, the final decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED and REMANDED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges that he is disabled due to a variety of ailments, including depression, anxiety attacks, ruptured disk in his back, hernia, and pain in his hips, knees, and ankles. Tr. 98-104, ECF No. 11-3. After his application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, a hearing was held on August 28, 2014, in Dallas, Texas, before Administrative Law Judge Daniel Curran (the “ALJ”). Tr. 92, ECF No. 11-3. Also present at the hearing was Vocational Expert Ms. Skinner (the “VE”). Tr. 92, ECF No. 11-3. Plaintiff was born on January 8, 1962 and was 52 years old at the time of the August 28, 2014 hearing. Tr. 37, ECF No. 11-3; Tr. 92, ECF No. 11-4. Plaintiff dropped out of high school in the 12th grade. Tr. 93, ECF No. 11-3. On November 26, 2014, the ALJ issued his decision finding that Plaintiff has not been under a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act from the alleged onset date of November 18, 2010 through the date of his decision. Tr. 32 & 39, ECF No. 11-3. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: lumbar degenerative disc disease, disc herniation, bilateral hernia, torn left groin shin implant, affective mood disorder, major depressive disorder, and pain disorder. Tr. 32, ECF No. 11-3. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or a combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Tr. 34, ECF No. 11-3.

         The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) for the following: (1) lift, carry, and push/pull 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; (2) sit, stand, and walk for 6 hours in an 8 hour work day, with no limits on foot controls; (3) occasionally climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds, with no other postural limitations; (4) have no manipulative, visual, or communicative restrictions; (5) understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions; (6) make simple work related decisions; (7) have no joint decision making or teamwork; (8) have no more than occasional contact and no direct directions from the general public; (9) have no individual initiative; (10) have no close oversight by a supervisor; (11) have no exposure to unguarded hazards, open nip points, open pits, unprotected heights, moving machinery, open flames, and open pools of water; and (12) have no more than occasional exposure to extremes of temperature, loud noises, smoke, or other intrusive distractions. Tr. 35, ECF No. 11-3. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not able to perform his past relevant work as a parts clerk (heavy, semiskilled), salesperson (light, skilled), and maintenance repairer (medium, skilled), because Plaintiff only had the RFC for light, unskilled work. Tr. 37, ECF No. 11-3; Tr. 111, ECF No. 11-4. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff was capable of performing the tasks of occupations such as the following: cleaner housekeeping, photocopy machine operator, and routing clerk. Tr. 38, ECF No. 11-3; Tr. 114, ECF No. 11-4. Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council, and on April 12, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request. Tr. 5, ECF No. 11-3. Plaintiff then filed his Complaint in the District Court on July 31, 2016. Compl., ECF No. 1.

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         A claimant must prove that she is disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act to be entitled to social security benefits. Leggett v. Chater, 67 F.3d 558, 563-64 (5th Cir. 1995); Abshire v. Bowen, 848 F.2d 638, 640 (5th Cir. 1988). The definition of disability under the Act is “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 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); Anthony v. Sullivan, 954 F.2d 289, 292 (5th Cir. 1992).

         The Commissioner utilizes a sequential five-step inquiry to determine whether a claimant is disabled. Those steps are that:

(1) an individual who is working and engaging in substantial gainful activity will not be found disabled regardless of medical findings;
(2) an individual who does not have a “severe impairment” will not be found to be disabled;
(3) an individual who meets or equals a listed impairment in Appendix 1 of the regulations will be considered disabled without consideration of vocational factors;
(4) if an individual is capable of performing the work the individual has done in the past, a finding of “not disabled” will be made; and
(5) if an individual's impairment precludes the individual from performing the work the individual has done in the past, other factors including age, education, past work experience, and residual functional capacity must be considered to determine if other work can be performed.

Greenspan v. Shalala, 38 F.3d 232, 236 (5th Cir. 1994) (citing Villa v. Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, 1022 (5th Cir. 1990); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b)-(f)). The burden of proof lies with the claimant to prove disability under the first four steps of the five-step inquiry. Leggett, 67 F.3d at 564. The burden of proof shifts to the Commissioner at step five of the inquiry to prove that other work, aside from the claimant's past work, can be performed by the claimant. Bowling v. ...


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