United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division
ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
BENJAMIN W. CHEESBRO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
contests the decision of Administrative Law Judge Geoffrey S.
Casher (“the ALJ” or “ALJ Casher”)
denying his claim for a Period of Disability and Disability
Insurance Benefits. Plaintiff urges the Court to reverse and
remand the ALJ's decision. Doc. 13 at 14. Defendant
asserts the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed.
Doc. 14 at 12. For the reasons which follow, I
RECOMMEND the Court AFFIRM
the Commissioner's decision. I also
RECOMMEND the Court DIRECT
the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case and
enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal.
filed an application for a Period of Disability and
Disability Insurance Benefits on February 20, 2014, alleging
he became disabled on November 15, 2013, due to Crohn's
disease, fibromyalgia, deep vein thrombosis, and anxiety.
Doc. 11-2 at 18; Doc. 11-3 at 2. After his claim was denied
initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff filed a timely
request for a hearing. On July 22, 2016, ALJ Casher conducted
a video hearing at which Plaintiff, who was represented by
counsel, appeared and testified from Waycross, Georgia. Mark
Leaptrot, a vocational expert, also appeared at the hearing.
ALJ Casher found that Plaintiff was not disabled within the
meaning of the Social Security Act (“the Act”)
since November 15, 2013. Doc. 11-2 at 18. The Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's
decision, and the decision of the ALJ became the final
decision of the Commissioner for judicial review.
Id. at 2.
born on July 30, 1984, was 32 years old when ALJ Casher
issued his final decision. Id. at 25, 26. He has at
least a high school education and obtained a five-year degree
from a union training program. Id. at 25, 37.
Plaintiff's past relevant work experience includes work
as an electrician helper, construction worker, customer
service representative, and security guard. Id. at
The ALJ's Findings
II of the Act defines “disability” as 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). The Act qualifies the definition of disability
An individual shall be determined to be under a disability
only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are
of such 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). Pursuant to the Act, the
Commissioner has established a five-step process to determine
whether a person meets the definition of disability. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987).
first step determines if the claimant is engaged in
“substantial gainful activity.” Id. If
the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, then
benefits are immediately denied. Id. If the claimant
is not engaged in such activity, then the second inquiry is
whether the claimant has a medically severe impairment or
combination of impairments. Id. at 140-41. If the
claimant's impairment or combination of impairments is
severe, then the evaluation proceeds to step three. The third
step requires a determination of whether the claimant's
impairment meets or equals one of the impairments listed in
the Code of Federal Regulations and acknowledged by the
Commissioner as sufficiently severe to preclude substantial
gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d),
416.920(d); 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P. App. 1; Phillips
v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1238 (11th Cir. 2004). If
the impairment meets or equals one of the listed impairments,
the plaintiff is presumed disabled. Yuckert, 482
U.S. at 141.
impairment does not meet or equal one of the listed
impairments, the sequential evaluation proceeds to the fourth
step to determine if the impairment precludes the claimant
from performing past relevant work, i.e., whether the
claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform his
past relevant work. Id.; Stone v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 503 Fed.Appx. 692, 693 (11th Cir. 2013). A
claimant's residual functional capacity “is an
assessment . . . of the claimant's remaining ability to
do work despite his impairments.” Id. at
693-94 (ellipsis in original) (quoting Lewis v.
Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1440 (11th Cir. 1997)). If the
claimant is unable to perform his past relevant work, the
final step of the evaluation process determines whether he is
able to make adjustments to other work in the national
economy, considering his age, education, and work experience.
Phillips, 357 F.3d at 1239. Disability benefits will
be awarded only if the claimant is unable to perform other
work. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 142.
instant case, the ALJ followed this sequential process to
determine that Plaintiff did not engage in substantial
gainful activity since September 15, 2013, his application
date. Doc. 11-2 at 20. At step two, ALJ Casher determined
Plaintiff had Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome,
fibromyalgia, anxiety disorder, left shoulder bursitis, and a
history of deep vein thrombosis, conditions considered
“severe” under the Regulations because
“they have more than a minimal effect on”
Plaintiff's ability to perform work-related activities.
Id. However, at the third step, the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically
equal the severity of a listed impairment. Id. at
21. The ALJ found Plaintiff had the residual functional
capacity to perform work at the light exertional level, with
the following exceptions: lifting and/or carrying 20 pounds
occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; standing and walking
six hours in an eight hour workday with six hours of seated
work; occasional bending, balancing, stooping, kneeling,
crouching, crawling, and climbing ramps and stairs, but no
climbing of ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; occasional
bilateral overhead reaching; no exposure to hazardous
conditions such as unprotected heights and dangerous
machinery; simple routine tasks involving no more than
simple, short instructions and simple work-related decisions
with few workplace changes; and avoiding work at production
rate pace quota/piece type work. Id. at 22. At the
next step, the ALJ determined Plaintiff could not perform any
of his past relevant work. Id. at 25. The ALJ
concluded at the fifth and final step that Plaintiff could
perform the jobs of washing machine attendant, information
clerk, and folder, all of which are jobs at the light,
unskilled exertional level and which exist in significant
numbers in the national economy. Id. at 26.