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Donald M. Burton v. Michael J. Astrue

March 13, 2012

DONALD M. BURTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



ORDER

This social security action was submitted to the court without oral argument for ruling on plaintiff's amended motion for summary judgment and defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, plaintiff's motion is granted in part and denied in part, the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner) is reversed, and the matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this order.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On September 16, 2004, plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act (the Act) and for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Act, alleging disability beginning on July 1, 2003. (Transcript (Tr.) at 141.) Plaintiff's applications were denied initially on December 6, 2004, and upon reconsideration on June 24, 2005. (Id. at 61, 68.) A hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on October 19, 2006. (Id. at 448-97.) Plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified at the administrative hearing. In a decision issued on February 26, 2007, the ALJ found that plaintiff was disabled but that his disability began after the date he was last insured. (Id. at 45-52.) On February 7, 2008, the Appeals Council vacated the ALJ's decision and remanded the matter for further proceedings. (Id. at 59.)

A second administrative hearing was held on January 13, 2009. (Id. at 498.) Plaintiff was again represented by counsel and testified at the administrative hearing. In a decision issued on July 9, 2009, the ALJ found that plaintiff had been disabled from December 5, 2005, to January 19, 2009, but not before or after that period of time. (Id. at 24-33.)

The ALJ entered the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act on September 30, 2005.

2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 1, 2003, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1520(b), 404.1571 et seq., 416.920(b) and 416.971 et seq.).

3. At all times relevant to this decision, the claimant has had the following severe impairments: depression and low back pain without objective findings consistent with pain. (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).

4. Prior to December 5, 2005, the date the claimant became disabled, the claimant did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled an impairment listed in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d) and 416.920(d)).

5. Prior to December 5, 2005, the date the claimant became disabled, the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform the light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.956(b) except for the following limitations: moderate limitations affecting social functioning.

6. Prior to December 5, 2005, the claimant was unable to perform past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).

7. The claimant was born on April 29, 1957 and was 46 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. Prior to December 5, 2005, 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 skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).

10. Prior to December 5, 2005, considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant could have performed (20 CFR 4041560(c), 404.1566, 416.960(c), and 416.966).

11. From December 5, 2005 through January 19, 2009, the period during which the claimant was disabled, the severity of the claimant's depression equals the criteria of section 12.04, Affective disorders, of 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d) and 416.920(d)).

12. The claimant was under a disability, as defined by the Social Security Act, from December 5, 2005 through January 19, 2009

(20 CFR 404.1520(d) and 416.920(d)). 13. Medical improvement occurred as of January 20, 2009, the date the claimant's disability ended (20 CFR 404.1594(b)(1) and 416.994(b)(1)(i)).

14. Beginning on January 20, 2009, the claimant has not had an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one fo the impairments listed in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1594(f)(2) and 416.994(b)(5)(i)).

15. The medical improvement that has occurred is related to the ability to work because the claimant no longer has an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals a listing (20 CFR 404.1594(c)(3)(i) and 416.994(b)(2)(iv)(A)).

16. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that, beginning on January 20, 2009, the claimant has had the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except for the following limitations: moderate limitations affecting social functioning.

17. Beginning on January 20, 2009, the claimant has been unable to perform past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).

18. The claimant was born on April 29, 1957 and was 52 years old, which is defined as a (sic) an individual closely approaching advanced age, on January 20, 2009, the date ...


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