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Justin M. Smith v. Michael J. Astrue

January 11, 2011

JUSTIN M. SMITH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Glenn T. Suddaby, United States District Judge

(GTS/GHL)

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court in this action, filed by Justin M. Smith ("Plaintiff") against Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue ("Defendant") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking Social Security benefits, are the following: (1) the Report-Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge George H. Lowe, issued pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 72.3(c) of the Local Rules of Practice for this Court, recommending that Defendant's decision denying Social Security benefits to Plaintiff be affirmed and that Plaintiff's Complaint be dismissed; (2) Plaintiff's Objections to the Report-Recommendation; and (3) Defendant's Response to Plaintiff's Objections. (Dkt. Nos. 14, 15, 17.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Objections are rejected, Magistrate Judge Lowe's Report-Recommendation is accepted and adopted in its entirety, and Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

Because neither party has objected to the to Part I of Magistrate Judge Lowe's Report-Recommendation, setting forth the procedural background of this action, the Court adopts that part's description of this action's procedural background. (See generally Dkt. No. 14, at 1-2.)

On December 20, 2005, Plaintiff protectively applied for supplemental security income ("SSI"). (See Administrative Transcript ["T."] 16, 70-71.)*fn1 On May 18, 2006, his application was denied by the Social Security Administration. (T. 59.) On June 3, 2008, a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") of the Social Security Administration.*fn2

In his decision, the ALJ applied the five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether an individual is disabled,*fn3 and concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled.

(Dkt. No. 14.) More specifically, in reaching this conclusion, the ALJ made the following findings: (1) Plaintiff had never before engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) Plaintiff's "venous insufficiency secondary to deep venous thrombosis and cosinophilic granuloma" were severe impairments; (3) however, Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled a listed impairment; (4) Plaintiff had the Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC") to perform medium work, with the only limitation being that he should avoid concentrated exposure to fumes, dusts, odors, and gasses; and (5) although Plaintiff had no past relevant work history, considering his age, education, work experience, and RFC, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that he could perform. (Id.)

Plaintiff appealed from the ALJ's decision to the Social Security Administration's Appeals Council. (T. 11-12.) On January 30, 2009, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of Defendant. (T 5-7.) On March 9, 2009, Plaintiff commenced this action in federal court. (Dkt. No. 1.)

Generally, in his brief in support of his Complaint, Plaintiff asserts the following four arguments: (1) the ALJ erred when he failed to find that Plaintiff's bipolar disorder was a severe impairment (Dkt. No. 12 at 12-13); (2) the ALJ failed to apply the appropriate legal standards when evaluating Plaintiff's RFC (id. at 13-16); (3) the ALJ failed to apply the appropriate legal standards when evaluating Plaintiff's credibility (id. at 16-18); and (4) the ALJ erred when he failed to consult a vocational expert (id. at 18-19). Generally, in his brief in response to Plaintiff's brief, Defendant disagrees with each of these four arguments, and argues that the decision finding Plaintiff not disabled should be affirmed. (Dkt. No. 13.)

B. Magistrate Judge Lowe's Report-Recommendation

On June 4, 2010, Magistrate Judge Lowe issued a Report-Recommendation recommending that Defendant's decision denying Social Security benefits be affirmed and the Complaint be dismissed on the following grounds: (1) the ALJ's finding that Plaintiff's bipolar disorder was a non-severe impairment was supported by substantial evidence; (2) the ALJ's RFC finding was supported by substantial evidence; (3) the ALJ's analysis of Plaintiff's credibility was supported by substantial ...


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