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John Jackson v. Michael J. Astrue

March 25, 2011



Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. For the reasons discussed below, the court grants defendant's motion for summary judgment and denies plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.


Plaintiff formally applied for SSI on August 19, 2004. Administrative Record ("AR") 19. His application alleged that he had been disabled since August 31, 2004. Id. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, and plaintiff requested an administrative hearing. Id. On January 12, 2007, a hearing was held before administrative law judge ("ALJ") Steven D. Slahta. Id. Plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified at the hearing, along with vocational expert William R. Harvey. Id.

The ALJ issued a decision on March 29, 2007, finding that plaintiff was not disabled.*fn1 Id. at 19-30. The ALJ made the following specific findings:

1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 31, 2004, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 416.920(b) and 416.971 et seq.).

2. The claimant has the following severe combination of impairments: mild degenerative joint disease of the thoracic and lumbar spine, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, anxiety disorder, and is status post right hip replacement secondary to remote history of avascular necrosis (20 CFR 416.920(c)). ...

3. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926). ...

4. The undersigned finds that, giving the claimant generous benefit of the doubt for hip and leg pain, along with symptoms of anxiety, the claimant retains the residual functional capacity to perform the exertional demands of sedentary work, or work which requires maximum occasional lifting of ten pounds, and standing or walking no more than 2 hours per day. Most sedentary jobs are performed while seated, and those performed in the seated position often require the worker to operate hand or leg controls (20 C.F.R. §§404.1567 and 416.967). The evidence supports a finding the claimant is not able to lift and carry more than 10 pounds on a frequent or occasional basis, and cannot stand or walk more than 2 hours per day.

The claimant's capacity for sedentary [work] is diminished by significant non-exertional limitations which make it difficult to sit for prolonged periods. Claimant must be allowed to alternately sit or stand, at will. Claimant must avoid working near hazardous machinery, at heights, or in exposure to temperature extremes. Claimant has occasional limitations for climbing (stairs), balancing, stooping, crouching, bending, crawling, and kneeling. Due to symptoms of chronic pain, mild anxiety, and claimant's limited education, the claimant is limited to performing only entry-level, unskilled, simple, and repetitive 1 or 2 step work tasks, in a low-stress environment, where he works with "things" rather than people.

The claimant has the following degree of limitation in the broad areas of functioning set out in the disability regulations for evaluating mental disorders and in the mental disorders listings in 20 CFR, Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1: mild restriction of activities of daily living; mild to moderate difficulties in maintaining social functioning; mild difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence or pace; and no episodes of decompensation. ...

5. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 416.965). ...

6. The claimant was born on September 4, 1961 and was 42 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44, on the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.963).

7. The claimant has a limited 9th grade education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 416.964).

8. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is "not disabled," whether or not the claimant has transferable job ...

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