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McCallum v. Berryhill

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 2, 2019

WINSTON MACCALLUM, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Performing Duties and Functions Not Reserved for the Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DEBORAH A. ROBINSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Winston McCallum, Jr. commenced this action against the then-Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Administration”), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3), seeking reversal of an Administrative Law Judge's decision denying Plaintiffs application for Supplemental Security Income benefits. Complaint at 1, ¶ 1 (ECF No. 1). This action initially was referred to this court for Report and Recommendation. Order at 1, ¶ 1-2 (ECF No. 4). Upon notice and consent of the parties, this action was assigned to this court for all purposes pursuant to Local Civil Rule 73.1. Notice, Consent, and Reference of a Civil Action to a Magistrate (ECF No. 16).

         Currently pending for determination are Plaintiffs Motion for Judgment of Reversal (“Plaintiffs Motion”) (ECF No. 13) and Defendant's Motion for Judgment of Affirmance (“Defendant's Motion”) (ECF No. 14). Upon consideration of the motions, the memoranda in support thereof and in opposition thereto, and the entire record herein, the court will deny Defendant's motion, and grant Plaintiffs motion in part.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff applied for Supplemental Security Income pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act. Administrative Record (“AR”) at 155 (ECF No. 8-5). Plaintiff alleged disability, beginning on June 1, 2006, attributable to “Glycogenic and storage disease, ” enlarged heart and liver, a vehicle accident, and loss of balance. Id. at 195, 199. Defendant denied Plaintiff's application for benefits on December 21, 2012, and Plaintiff filed a request for reconsideration on January 11, 2013. AR at 76 (ECF No. 8-3); 103 (ECF No. 8-4). Thereafter, Defendant considered Plaintiff's request for reconsideration and found the previous determination denying the claim proper under the law. AR at 104 (ECF No. 8-4).

         On May 1, 2013, Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. Id. at 107. A hearing was held on September 11, 2014 before Administrative Law Judge Michael A. Krasnow (“ALJ”). Id. at 40. On March 26, 2015, the ALJ rendered an unfavorable decision. AR at 16 (ECF No. 8-2). In the decision, the ALJ employed a five-step process to determine whether Plaintiff was disabled. Id. at 20, ¶ 1. The ALJ made ten findings of fact and conclusions of law: (1) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 3, 2012; (2) Plaintiff has severe impairments; (3) Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments; (4) Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform light work, except that he requires a cane for walking long distances or on uneven surface; (5) Plaintiff has no past relevant work; (6) while Plaintiff was defined as a “younger” individual at the time he filed his application, he subsequently changed his age category to “closely approaching advanced age”; (7) Plaintiff has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English; (8) transferability of job skills is not an issue because Plaintiff does not have past relevant work; (9) jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform, and (10) Plaintiff has not been under a disability as defined in the Social Security Act since the date the application was filed. Id. at 19-35.

         On April 10, 2015, Plaintiff's counsel requested review by the Appeals Council of the denial of the disability claim by the ALJ. AR at 15 (ECF No. 8-2). Plaintiff's counsel filed a representative brief on behalf of Plaintiff on June 15, 2015. Id. at 4. On May 17, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's March 26, 2015 decision. Id. at 1.

         Plaintiff commenced the instant action by filing a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. See Complaint (ECF No. 1).

         STATUTORY FRAMEWORK

         The Social Security Act of 1935 established a framework to provide disability insurance and supplemental security income to individuals who have reached age 65, who are blind, or disabled. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 423, 1381, 1381a. The Act defines “disability” for non-blind individuals as “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); 20 C.F.R. § 416.605. A “disabled” individual is eligible for supplemental security income if he or she meets additional statutory requirements concerning income and resources. 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a). The Administration has promulgated regulations, pursuant to the Act, outlining a five-step process for determining whether adult claimants are disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.

         First, the Administration evaluates whether the claimant is “doing substantial gainful activity.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), (b); 416.920(a)(4)(i), (b). If so, the Administration concludes that the claimant is not disabled. Id.

         Second, if the claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful activity, the Administration determines whether the claimant has a “severe medically determinable physical or medical impairment that meets the duration requirement . . . or a combination of impairments that is severe and meets the duration requirement. . .” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii).

         Third, if the claimant's impairment is deemed “severe” under the second step, the next question becomes whether the impairment “meets or equals one of the listings” in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1525(a). 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii). The “listing” refers to a “listing of impairments” which “describes for each of the major body system impairments that [the Administration] consider[s] to be severe enough to prevent an individual from doing any gainful activity, regardless of his or her age, education, or work experience.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1525(a).

         Fourth, if the claimant's impairment does not meet or exceed one of the listings under step three, the Administration assesses the claimant's “residual functional capacity” to determine whether the claimant is still capable of performing “past relevant work.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. A claimant's residual functional capacity is “the most [an individual] can still do despite [his or her] limitations.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545. If the ...


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