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Byrd v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division

December 4, 2014

DANIEL JEFFERY BYRD, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

BRIAN K. EPPS, Magistrate Judge.

Daniel Jeffery Byrd ("Plaintiff") appeals the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under the Social Security Act. Upon consideration of the briefs submitted by both parties, the record evidence, and the relevant statutory and case law, the Court REPORTS and RECOMMENDS that the Commissioner's final decision be AFFIRMED, that this civil action be CLOSED, and that a final judgment be ENTERED in favor of the Commissioner.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff protectively applied for DIB on February 8, 2012, alleging a disability onset date of October 15, 2011. Tr. ("R."), pp. 132-139, 140-141. The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's applications initially, R. at 63-64, and on reconsideration, R. at 65-66. Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), R. at 83-84, and the ALJ held a hearing on November 8, 2012, R. at 22-62. At the hearing, the ALJ heard testimony from Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, and Dr. Bassey Duke, a Vocational Expert ("VE"). Id . On November 28, 2012, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. R. at 10-18.

Applying the five-step sequential process required by 20 C.F.R. § 404.920, the ALJ found:

1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq. ).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: obesity and dysfunction of a major joint, status post fracture of the left hip (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
3. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
4. The claimant has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work[1] as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) with no climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds; occasional postural limitations; occasional climbing ramps or stairs; the need to avoid extreme cold, hazards, and heights; performing no more than simple, unskilled work (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1565 and 416.965).
5. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and RFC, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 404.1569, 404.1569(a), 416.1569, and 416.1569(a)).

R. at 10-18.

When the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, R. at 1-3, the Commissioner's decision became "final" for the purpose of judicial review. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff then filed this civil action requesting reversal of the adverse decision. Plaintiff argues that the Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial evidence because: (1) the ALJ failed to develop a full and fair record and (2) the hypothetical question to the VE was incomplete and did not properly include all of Plaintiff's impairments. (See doc. no. 11 (hereinafter "Pl.'s Br.").) The Commissioner maintains that the decision to deny Plaintiff benefits was supported by substantial evidence and should therefore be affirmed. (See doc. no. 12 (hereinafter "Comm'r's Br.").)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Judicial review of social security cases is narrow and limited to the following questions: (1) whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence, Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971); Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145 (11th Cir. 1991); and (2) whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards. Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986). When considering whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, the reviewing court may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute its judgment for the Commissioner's. Cornelius, 936 F.2d at 1145. Notwithstanding this measure of deference, the Court remains obligated ...


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