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Erik Gustafson v. Commissioner of Social Security

November 19, 2012

ERIK GUSTAFSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court, in this Social Security action filed by Erik Gustafson ("Plaintiff") against the Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or "the Commissioner") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), are the parties' cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings. (Dkt. Nos. 12, 16.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is granted and Plaintiff's motion is denied.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

Plaintiff was born on October 7, 1974. He has earned a general equivalency diploma, and is able to communicate in English. During his life, Plaintiff has worked as a snowplow driver, property manager and mechanic. Generally, his alleged disability consists of back and leg injuries. Plaintiff's alleged disability onset date is November 1, 2008.

B. Procedural History

On January 23, 2009, Plaintiff applied for Supplemental Security Income. Plaintiff's application was initially denied, after which Plaintiff timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("the ALJ"). On May 27, 2010, Plaintiff appeared before ALJ, Carl Stephan. (T. 29-60.) The ALJ issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act on July 28, 2010. (T. 13-28.) On September 7, 2011, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (T. 1-6.) Thereafter, Plaintiff timely sought judicial review in this Court.

C. The ALJ's Decision

In his decision, the ALJ made the following findings of fact and conclusions of law. (T. 16-24.) First, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his application date. (T. 18.) Second, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's central left disc herniation at L5-S1, central disc protrusion/herniation at L4-L5, and degenerative foraminal stenosis at L4 through S1 are severe impairments. (T. 18.) Third, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments located in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix. 1; the ALJ considered listing 1.04. (T. 20.) Fourth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform the full range of light work. (T. 20-23.) Finally, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable to perform his past relevant work, but that there are jobs that exist in the national economy that he can perform. (T. 23-24.)

II. THE PARTIES' BRIEFINGS

A. Plaintiff's Arguments

In support of his motion for judgment on the pleadings, Plaintiff argues only that the ALJ erred in determining that he does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments located in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix. 1; specifically, Plaintiff argues that his impairments meet or medically equal Paragraph A of Listing 1.04. (Dkt. No. 12 at 3-4 [Pl.'s Mem. of Law].)

B. Defendant's Arguments

In response to Plaintiff's motion, and in support of Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings, Defendant argues that his decision that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act from January 23, 2009, through July 28, 2010, is supported ...


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