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Rankin v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

November 17, 2014

JOHN WESLEY RANKIN, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ARTHUR J. SCHWAB, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff, John Wesley Rankin, Jr. ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the Social Security Act (the "Act"), seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI"). The parties have submitted cross motions for summary judgment on the record developed at the administrative proceedings. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 11) will be denied. The Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 14) will be granted and the administrative decision of the Commissioner will be affirmed.

II. Procedural History

On April 13, 2011, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB and SSI, alleging disability beginning on March 17, 2009, due to depression, shoulder pain, back and neck pain, joint pain, allergies and sinusitis.[1] (R. at 83-84). An administrative hearing was held on July 20, 2012, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Karen B. Kostol. (R. at 31). Plaintiff and a vocational expert, Eugene A. Czuczman, each testified at the hearing. (R. at 31-82).

On September 13, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision in which she determined that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act because he could perform a range of unskilled, low-stress, light jobs. (R. at 14-26). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner in this case. (R. at 1-4).

Plaintiff commenced the instant action on April 16, 2014, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision. (Doc. No. 1). Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on August 4, 2014. (Doc. No. 11). The Commissioner filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on September 4, 2014. (Doc. No. 14). These motions are the subject of this Memorandum Opinion.

III. Statement of the Case

In his decision, the ALJ made the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2010. (R. at 16).
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 17, 2009, the alleged onset date (20 C.F.R. § 404.1571 et seq ., and 416.971 et seq .). (R. at 16).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative joint disease of cervical and thoracic spine, status post compression fracture of T10-T12; degenerative joint disease of the right knee; status post bilateral rotator cuff repairs; and allergic rhinitis history of sinusitis (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)). (R. at 16-17).
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926)). (R. at 18).
5. The claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except the type of work must: entail no climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds or crawling and only occasional other postural movements; allow the claimant the option of standing or walking for 30 minutes or sitting for 30 minutes alternatively without being off task; avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold and hot temperatures, wetness, humidity, or hazards (i.e. unprotected heights or moving machinery); entail only occasional rotation, flexion, or extension of the neck; entail only frequent overhead reaching bilaterally; be limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks (SVP levels 1 and 2); be limited to low stress jobs defined as having only occasional ...

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