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Lane v. Colvin

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

December 23, 2014

JAMES E. LANE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

CHARLES H. WEIGLE, Magistrate Judge.

This is a review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff James E. Lane's application for benefits. Because the Commissioner's decision is based on the application of proper legal standards and is supported by substantial evidence, it is RECOMMENDED that the Commissioner's decision be AFFIRMED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff claims to suffer from lower-extremity edema, morbid obesity, and cardiac problems. Plaintiff filed applications for Title II and Title XVI benefits in March 2010, but his applications were denied initially and on reconsideration, (R. 71-74), and a reviewing ALJ determined that Plaintiff was "not disabled" on April 13, 2012. (R. 21-29). The Appeals Council denied review in Plaintiff's case on September 23, 2013, (R. 13), and Plaintiff now seeks review before this Court, arguing (1) that the ALJ "ignore[d] or understate[d] the most significant findings and conclusions" of two medical sources, (Doc. 14, p. 9), and (2) that the ALJ improperly discounted Plaintiff's credibility based, in part, on Plaintiff's failure to lose weight. Because the record does not support Plaintiff's arguments, it is recommended that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of Social Security is limited to a determination of whether that decision is supported by substantial evidence, as well as whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards. Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011). "Substantial evidence" is defined as "more than a scintilla, " and as "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. The Eleventh Circuit has explained that reviewing courts may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute their judgment for that of the Commissioner. Id. Rather, if the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, that decision must be affirmed even if the evidence preponderates against it.

EVALUATION OF DISAIBLITY

Social Security claimants are "disabled" if they are unable 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. ยง 423(d)(1)(A).

The Social Security Regulations outline a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether a claimant is disabled: "(1) whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the impairment meets or equals the severity of the specified impairments in the Listing of impairments; (4) based on a residual functional capacity ("RFC") assessment, whether the claimant can perform any of his or her past relevant work despite the impairment; and (5) whether there are significant numbers of jobs in the national economy that the claimant can perform given the claimant's RFC, age, education, and work experience." Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178 (11th Cir. 2011).

DISABILITY EVALUATION IN THIS CASE

Following the five-step sequential evaluation process, the reviewing ALJ made the following findings in this case. At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 1, 2010. (R. 23). At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: "obesity[, ] congestive heart failure with cardiomyopathy and cardiomegaly, hypertension, osteoarthritis in the left knee, [and] chronic obstructive pulmonary disease." (R. 23). At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments meeting or equaling one of the listed impairments. (R. 23). Therefore, the ALJ assessed Plaintiff's RFC and determined that Plaintiff could perform:

[L]ight work... with exceptions. The claimant can occasionally lift or carry and push or pull 20 pounds. The claimant can frequently lift or carry and push or pull 10 pounds. The claimant can stand or walk for 4 hours of an 8-hour day or sit for 6 hours of an 8-hour day. The claimant can occasionally kneel, crawl, crouch, stoop, balance, and climb ramps or stairs. The claimant cannot climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds or similar hazards. The claimant can tolerate no extreme cold or heat and no more than occasional atmospheric conditions such as smoke, dust or fumes.

(R. 24)

At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could not perform any of his past relevant work. (R. 27). At step five, though, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could make an adjustment to "other work." (R. 28). Specifically, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff could perform the requirements of representative occupations like "Routing Clerk, " "Cashier II" and "Furniture Rental Consultant." (R. ...


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