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DUNN v. SHALALA

November 9, 1994

JAMES T. DUNN, Plaintiff,
v.
DONNA E. SHALALA, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: PAUL L. FRIEDMAN

 James T. Dunn brought this action under Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to review the final decision of the Secretary of Health and Human Services denying Dunn's application for disability insurance benefits under Title II and Supplemental Security Income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-423, 1381-1383. He now moves for summary reversal and remand of that decision, and the Secretary moves for summary affirmance. The Court heard oral argument on the motions and has carefully reviewed the motions papers and the Administrative Record.

 I. BACKGROUND

 A. Facts

 Mr. Dunn is 46 years old and has a twelfth grade education and custodial training. He attended college for one year. Administrative Record ("A.R.") 13-14. In September of 1990, he filed an application for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration. The Department of Health and Human Services denied his claim and, later, his motion for reconsideration. A.R. 4-5. Pursuant to Mr. Dunn's requested de novo consideration of his claims, an Administrative Law Judge heard the case on November 13, 1991. Mr. Dunn testified with the assistance of counsel. The ALJ left the record open for two weeks to allow Dunn to submit additional evidence. He submitted no further evidence.

 On March 10, 1992, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Dunn was capable of performing his past relevant work as a custodial manager, property manager and carpet cleaner and therefore was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. A.R. 13-20. On May 14, 1993, the Social Security Agency Appeals Council denied Mr. Dunn's request to review the ALJ's decision, thus making the ALJ's decision final and subject to review by this Court. A.R. 4-5.

 B. Statutory and Regulatory Framework

 The Social Security Act defines disability as an "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). Inability to engage in substantial gainful activity includes inability to do previous work or "other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).

 The Secretary has promulgated regulations that set out a sequential five-step process for evaluating a Social Security disability claim. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)-(f). A claimant may be found to have no disability at any one of the sequential steps. The claimant must prove (1) that he is not presently engaged in substantial gainful work, 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b); (2) that he has a severe "impairment," 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(c); and either (3) that he suffers for the requisite duration from an impairment listed in the Secretary's regulations, 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d); or (4) that he is incapable of performing work that he has done in the past, 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). If the claimant carries his burden in the first four steps then, to make a finding of no disability, the Secretary must prove that the claimant is capable of performing other gainful work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(f), 416.920(f). See Simms v. Sullivan, 278 U.S. App. D.C. 259, 877 F.2d 1047, 1049 (D.C. Cir. 1989); Brown v. Bowen, 253 U.S. App. D.C. 409, 794 F.2d 703, 705-06 (D.C. Cir. 1986).

 It is the ALJ's adverse determination at the fourth step, ability to perform past work, that has resulted in Dunn's request for judicial review. In evaluating a claimant's ability to perform past relevant work, the Secretary's regulations require the ALJ to review the claimant's "residual functional capacity" for work activity. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). To conduct this review, the ALJ must first evaluate the physical and mental demands of the claimant's past relevant work. Next, the ALJ must consider the cumulative effects of claimant's physical and psychological impairments. Finally, the ALJ must compare the requirements of the past work with the claimant's present capabilities. Brown v. Bowen, 794 F.2d at 707.

 C. The ALJ's Disability Evaluation

 Although the ALJ followed the requisite analysis, plaintiff argues that the Secretary's decision to deny disability benefits was not supported by substantial evidence, either with respect ...


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