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John F. Chopp v. Carolyn W. Colvin

March 18, 2013

JOHN F. CHOPP, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheri Pym United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

On March 5, 2012, plaintiff John F. Chopp filed a complaint against defendant, the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"), seeking a review of a denial of supplemental security income ("SSI") benefits. Both plaintiff and defendant have consented to proceed for all purposes before the assigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). The court deems the matter suitable for adjudication without oral argument.

Plaintiff presents two issues for decision: (1) whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") properly discounted plaintiff's credibility; and (2) whether the ALJ erred at step five. Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Plaintiff's Complaint ("P. Mem.") at 4-20; Memorandum in Support of Defendant's Answer ("D. Mem.") at 2-8.

Having carefully studied, inter alia, the parties's moving papers, the Administrative Record ("AR"), and the decision of the ALJ, the court concludes that, as detailed herein, the ALJ properly discounted plaintiff's credibility. Further, although the ALJ erred in part at step five, such error was harmless. Consequently, this court affirms the decision of the Commissioner denying benefits.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, who was fifty-four years old on the date of his March 16, 2010 administrative hearing, is a high school graduate. AR at 19, 51, 136. Plaintiff has no past relevant work. Id. at 44, 78.

On April 24, 2008, plaintiff protectively filed an application for SSI, alleging an onset date of November 1, 2001, due to paranoia, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and hepatitis C. Id. at 130, 136, 142. The Commissioner denied plaintiff's application initially and upon reconsideration, after which he filed a request for a hearing. Id. at 91-95, 98-102.

On March 16, 2010, plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing before the ALJ. Id. at 51-85. The ALJ also heard testimony from Stephen P. Davis, a vocational expert ("VE"). Id. at 76-83. On April 16, 2010, the ALJ denied plaintiff's claim for benefits. Id. at 35-46.

Applying the well-known five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found, at step one, that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 24, 2008, the application date. Id. at 37.

At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease; intermittent explosive disorder; alcohol abuse; and personality disorder. Id. *fn1

At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff's impairments, whether individually or in combination, did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the "Listings"). Id.

The ALJ then assessed plaintiff's RFC and determined that he had the RFC *fn2 to perform medium work, with the limitations that plaintiff: could lift/carry fifty pounds occasionally and twenty-five pounds frequently; could stand/walk six hours in an eight-hour workday; required an option to sit/stand every thirty minutes; was precluded from work around hazardous machinery, heights, and contact with the general public; required a low stress job setting, one with little to no change in the day-to-day work routine; and could have occasional contact with ...


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