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KNAPP v. APFEL

July 5, 1998

WILLIAM KNAPP, Plaintiff, against KENNETH S. APFEL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCAVOY

MEMORANDUM-DECISION & ORDER

 McAVOY, CHIEF JUDGE:

 Plaintiff William Knapp brought this suit against the above-captioned defendant under section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)(the "Act"), to review a final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner") denying plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits under the Act. This matter was referred to the Hon. Ralph W. Smith, Jr., United States Magistrate Judge, for a report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 72.3(d).

 Magistrate Judge Smith's report and recommendation, dated January 15, 1998, recommends that the Commissioner's decision to deny plaintiff's application for disability insurance and SSI benefits be affirmed and the Complaint be dismissed. Plaintiff filed timely objections to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation.

 I. BACKGROUND

 A. Procedural History

 Plaintiff applied for disability insurance and SSI benefits on March 2, 1994. The application initially was denied on May 6, 1994, and was denied on reconsideration on September 15, 1994. On December 1, 1994, plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). A hearing was held on May 24, 1995 before ALJ John R. Tarrant. In a decision dated December 7, 1995, the ALJ found that plaintiff suffered from diabetes millitus, blindness in the left eye and diabetic retinopathy in the right eye, but that these impairments would not preclude him from returning to his prior work. The Appeals Council affirmed the decision of the ALJ.

 Plaintiff thereafter commenced the present action in federal court seeking review of the Commissioner's decision.

 B. The ALJ's Analysis

 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 twelve months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The administrative regulations of the Commissioner mandate that the ALJ follow a five-step process to evaluate disability claims. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.

 
First, the [Commissioner] considers whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity. If he is not, the [Commissioner] next considers whether the claimant has a "severe impairment" which significantly limits his physical or mental ability to do basic work activities. If the claimant suffers such an impairment which is listed in Appendix 1 of the regulations, the [Commissioner] presumes that a claimant who is afflicted with a "listed" impairment is unable to perform substantial gainful activity. Assuming the claimant does not have a listed impairment, the fourth inquiry is whether, despite the claimant's severe impairment, he has the residual functional capacity to perform his past work. Finally, if the claimant is unable to perform his past work, the [Commissioner] then determines whether there is other work which the claimant could perform.

 Berry v. Schweiker, 675 F.2d 464, 467 (2d Cir. 1982).

 Applying the five-step test to this case, the ALJ found that the plaintiff was not currently engaged in substantial gainful employment. In the second step, the ALJ determined that the plaintiff has a severe impairment. Under the third step, the ALJ found that the plaintiff was not per se disabled, as his impairment did not meet or equal an impairment listed in Appendix I, subpart P, 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). Under step four, the ALJ found that, although the plaintiff's loss of vision in his left eye and retinopathy in his right eye limited his ability to perform ...


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