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Sean Lewis v. Michael Astrue

December 7, 2012

SEAN LEWIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL ASTRUE, COMM'R OF SOC. SEC., 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 Sean Lewis ("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. 16, 17.) 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 April 7, 1981. He completed some, but not all, of his high school education credits. During his life, Plaintiff has worked part time at a gas station, drive-through fast food restaurant and nursing home. Plaintiff's work history also includes part time work as a stock clerk in a grocery store. Generally, his alleged disability consists of bipolar disorder, panic attacks and a hip injury. His alleged disability onset date is February 9, 2009.

B. Procedural History

On February 13, 2009, Plaintiff applied for Supplemental Security Income. Plaintiff's application was initially denied, after which he timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("the ALJ"). On October 19, 2010, Plaintiff appeared before the ALJ, Thomas P. Tielens. (T. 26-60.) The ALJ issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act on December 21, 2010. (T. 10-25.) On August 26, 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

Generally, in his decision, the ALJ made the following five findings of fact and conclusions of law. (T. 15-20.) First, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his application date. (T. 15.) Second, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's right hip pain and limitation status post surgery, affective disorder, anxiety related disorder, and substance addiction disorder are severe impairments. (Id.) 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. (T. 15-17.) The ALJ considered listings 1.02, 12.04, 12.06 and 12.09. (Id.) Fourth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work, except that he is limited to understanding, remembering and carrying out simple instructions. (T. 17-19.) Fifth, and finally, the ALJ determined that there are jobs that exist in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform. (T. 20.)

II. THE PARTIES' BRIEFINGS ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION

A. Plaintiff's Arguments

Plaintiff makes four separate arguments in support of his motion for judgment on the pleadings. First, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in failing to properly assess Plaintiff's credibility. (Dkt. No. 16 at 11-15 [Pl.'s Mem. of Law].) Second, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in failing to give controlling weight to Plaintiff's treating physician, and in failing to explain the weight given to the nurse practitioner who treated Plaintiff in conjunction with his treating physician. (Id. at 15-19.) Third, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred when he failed to consider and discuss lay witness testimony. (Id. at 19-21.) Fourth, and finally, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred when he failed to obtain vocational testimony, since Plaintiff's impairments included significant non-exertional impairments. (Id. at 21-22.)

B. Defendant's Arguments

In response, Defendant makes three arguments. First, Defendant argues that the ALJ properly evaluated the medical opinion evidence in determining Plaintiff's RFC. (Dkt. No. 17 at 6-12 [Def.'s Mem. of Law].) Second, Defendant argues that the ALJ properly evaluated Plaintiff's credibility. (Id. at 12-15.) Third, and finally, Defendant argues that the ALJ's determination at step five of the sequential analysis was supported by substantial evidence. (Id. at 15-16.)

III. RELEVANT LEGAL ...


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