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MOORE v. HALTER

April 11, 2001

MONTE R. MOORE, PLAINTIFF,
V.
WILLIAM A. HALTER, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Conti, Senior U.S. District Judge.

ORDER RE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DEFENDANT'S CROSS MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Monte R. Moore ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405 (g) to obtain judicial review of the final decision of defendant Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") that Plaintiff does not qualify for disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. See 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq. Plaintiff requests that relief be given in the form of an order reversing the decisions of the Commissioner, or in the alternative, remanding the case to the Commissioner for further proceedings. The Commissioner cross-moves for summary judgment and for, affirmation of his final decision.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed an application for Social Security disability insurance benefits on February 17, 1998. He alleged that he became disabled beginning May 30, 1996 due to colitis, a deteriorating hip, low back pain, a past knee fusion in which a steel rod was inserted from the hip to the ankle, and loss of teeth as a result of lack of calcium due to the colitis.

Plaintiff's application for social security disability benefits was denied initially and on reconsideration. Plaintiff filed a request for rehearing. The administrative hearing took place before Catherine Uazuran, United States Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). On January 29, 1999, Judge Uazuran rendered a decision unfavorable to Plaintiff. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on April 21, 2000.

Plaintiff contends that this Court should grant summary judgment in his favor on two grounds. First, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ's determination that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform work at a light exertional level misrepresented Plaintiff's limitations and was not supported by substantial evidence. See Ptf. Mem. at 5. Second, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred as a matter of law by failing to consider the entire case record and failing to set forth "an accurate and detailed representation of all plaintiffs limitations as expressed in the medical records." See Ptf. Mem. at 6. These arguments appear to be two sides of the same coin: that the ALJ's determination was not supported by substantial evidence because she failed to consider the entire record.

The Commissioner disputes these contentions, and seeks summary judgment against Plaintiff. For the reasons set forth below, the Court agrees in part with Plaintiff, and remands the case to the ALJ for the limited purpose of making a determination of Plaintiff's Koch pouch-related limitations based on all the evidence in the record, and a finding concerning Plaintiff's ability to work given his limitations.

III. ANALYSIS

A. The ALJ's Findings

In his decision, the ALJ properly noted that the Social Security Regulations establish a five-step sequential evaluation process for making disability determinations.

The first step asks whether the claimant is working. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 (b). The second step asks whether the claimant has a "severe" impairment. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 (c). The third step asks whether the claimant has an impairment which meets or equals the criteria of any impairment listed in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Social Security Regulation No. 4. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 (d). The fourth asks whether the claimant can perform his past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 (e). The fifth asks whether the claimant can perform other jobs present in significant numbers in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 (f). If the answer to one of these questions establishes whether the claimant is disabled, no further evaluation is necessary.

The ALJ analyzed Plaintiff's disability claim through this five-step process. Pursuant to step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in any significant gainful activity after May 30, 1996. Pursuant to step two, the ALJ found Plaintiff to have the severe impairments of chronic ulcerative colitis, status post colectomy in 1990 and Koch pouch creation in 1994, and status post rodding of the left leg from the hip to the ankle. Trans. at 23.


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