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Rodney K. Frizzell v. Michael J. Astrue

February 3, 2011

RODNEY K. FRIZZELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, ORDER COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows U.S. Magistrate Judge

Introduction and Summary

Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his applications for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") and Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Titles XVI and II, respectively, of the Social Security Act ("Act"). The overarching problem for plaintiff is his long time substance abuse. It would be a fair characterization that the record figuratively reeks of that abuse. In this case the ALJ found that plaintiff would be disabled considering all impairments, including substance abuse, but that plaintiff's substance abuse contributed to his inability to work, i.e., plaintiff's other impairments on their own would not be disabling. Plaintiff believes it is the Commissioner's burden to separate out the valid disabling impairments from the substance abuse, but it is not. Plaintiff bears that burden.

For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED, the Commissioner's Cross Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED, and the Clerk is directed to enter judgment for the Commissioner.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, born January 8, 1966, applied on October 31, 2005 for DIB, and on February 21, 2006 for SSI. (Tr. at 12, 368-72.) Plaintiff alleged he was unable to work due to personality disorders and disorders of the back. (Tr. at 368.)

In a decision dated May 7, 2009, ALJ Stanley R. Hogg determined plaintiff was not disabled. The ALJ made the following findings:*fn1

1. The claimant met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through only December 31, 2005.

2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 29, 2004, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1520(b), 404.1571 et seq., 416.920(b) and 416.971 et seq.).

3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: alcohol abuse and addiction and marijuana abuse with paranoid features, depression, personality disorder NOS, and degenerative changes at L3-4, L4-5, L5-S1, C4-5, and C5-6 (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)). 4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1,(20 CFR 404.1520(d) and 416.920(d)). 5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that, based on all of the impairments, including the substance use disorder, the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except with substance use, he is unable to sustain light work on a regular and continuing basis as he cannot use opiate medication to control his pain due to his alcohol use. In addition, he is limited to no complex tasks but can perform simple to detailed tasks.

6. The claimant has past relevant work as a construction worker and laborer (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).

7. The claimant was born on January 8, 1966 and was 38 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).

8. The claimant has a limited education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).

9. The claimant has no transferable job skills (20 CFR 404.1568 and 416.968).

10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity based on all of the impairments, including the substance use disorder, there are no jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 404.1560(c), 404.1566, 416.960(c), and 416.966).

11. If the claimant stopped the substance use, the remaining limitations would cause more than a minimal impact on the claimant's ability to perform basic work activities; therefore, the claimant would continue to have a severe impairment or combination of impairments.

12. If the claimant stopped the substance use, the claimant would not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals any of the impairments listed in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d) and 416.920(d)).

13. If he stopped the substance use, the claimant would have the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except he is limited to no complex tasks but can perform simple to detailed tasks.

14. As indicated above, the claimant has past relevant work as a construction worker and laborer (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965.)

15. The claimant has no transferable job skills (20 CFR 404.1568 and 416.968).

16. If the claimant stopped the substance use, considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there would be a significant number of jobs in the national economy that the claimant could ...


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