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Shetron v. Commissioner of Social Security

August 19, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scullin, Senior Judge



Currently before the Court is Magistrate Judge Homer's November 27, 2006 Report-Recommendation and Order and Plaintiff's objections thereto.*fn1


Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits on December 17, 2002, alleging that he had been disabled since July 1, 2002, due to joint problems, diabetes, diabetic retinopathy, and binocular glaucoma. See Administrative Transcript ("Tr.") at 15, 59-61. Plaintiff's application was initially denied. See id. at 28-30. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), which was held on May 13, 2004, before ALJ John J. Mulrooney II. See id. at 15, 34. On June 10, 2004, the ALJ issued a decision in which he held that Plaintiff was not entitled to disability benefits. See id. at 22. The ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on January 27, 2005. See id. at 4-6.

On March 3, 2005, Plaintiff commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of that final decision. In support of his argument that the Court should reverse Defendant's decision and award him benefits, Plaintiff asserted that (1) the ALJ erred when he failed to develop the record fully regarding Plaintiff's alleged severe depression; (2) the ALJ erred in assessing the severity of Plaintiff's impairments; (3) the ALJ failed to evaluate Plaintiff's credibility properly; and (4) the substantial evidence in the record did not support the ALJ's residual functional capacity ("RFC") assessment and conclusion that Plaintiff was not disabled.

On November 27, 2006, Magistrate Judge Homer issued his Report-Recommendation and Order, in which he recommended that this Court affirm Defendant's decision denying Plaintiff disability benefits. See Report-Recommendation and Order at 14.

Plaintiff objects generally to Magistrate Judge Homer's recommendation. Although not entirely clear, it appears that Plaintiff's argument is that Magistrate Judge Homer erred in affirming the ALJ's conclusion that Plaintiff had the RFC to perform his past relevant work, given the variety of problems he has with his vision, gait, and pain. See Plaintiff's Objections at 1.


A. Disability Determination

To be considered disabled, a plaintiff seeking disability insurance benefits must establish that he "is 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 twelve months." 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). In addition, the plaintiff's physical or mental impairment or impairments [must be] 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, regardless of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be hired if he applied for work. . . .

42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).

The Commissioner uses a five-step process, set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 and § 416.920, to evaluate disability insurance claims.

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, the third inquiry is whether, based solely on medical evidence, the claimant has an impairment which is listed in Appendix 1 of the regulations. If the claimant has such an impairment, the [Commissioner] will consider him disabled without considering vocational factors such as age, education, and work experience . . . . Assuming the claimant does not have a listed impairment, the fourth inquiry is whether, despite the claimant's severe impairment, he has the residual ...

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