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Brown v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 20, 2016

DARBY BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          RULING

          WILLIAM I. GARFINKEL United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Darby Brown has filed this appeal of the adverse decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his applications for disability insurance benefits (''DIB'') and supplemental security income (''SSI''). Plaintiff now moves, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for an order reversing this decision, or in the alternative remanding the matter for rehearing. [Doc. # 15]. Defendant has responded with a motion to affirm the decision of the Commissioner. [Doc. # 16]. The undersigned heard oral argument in this matter on May 18, 2016. For the reasons that follow, the Commissioner‘s decision is affirmed.

         Legal Standard

         The standards for determining a claimant‘s entitlement to disability benefits, the Commissioner‘s five-step framework for evaluating disability claims, and the district court‘s review of the Commissioner‘s final decision are well-established. The Court is following those standards, but does not repeat them here.

         Background

         Plaintiff filed his DIB application on July 20, 2012 and his SSI application on November 15, 2012, alleging a disability onset date of May 18, 2012. His claims were denied at both the initial and reconsideration levels. Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (''ALJ''), which was held before ALJ Deirdre R. Horton on January 30, 2014. On April 25, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff‘s claim. The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ‘s unfavorable decision the final decision of the Commissioner. This action followed.

         Plaintiff was 54 years old on the alleged disability onset date. (R. 23). He last worked in May 2012 as a supervisor in Home Depot‘s hardware department, a position he had held for five years. (R. 261-62). Plaintiff also has prior work experience as a manager at Walmart and an assistant manager at Benny‘s. (R. 263). Plaintiff completed high school, some college, and spent four years serving in the military, from which he was honorably discharged. (R. 269). Plaintiff has alleged disability based on diabetes, high cholesterol, and depression.

         In accordance with the Court‘s scheduling order, the parties have submitted a Stipulation of Facts, which the Court adopts and incorporates by reference herein. [Doc. # 19].

         The ALJ’s Decision

         The ALJ issued her decision on April 25, 2014. The ALJ followed the sequential evaluation process for evaluating disability claims. At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. (R. 16). At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff‘s adjustment disorder was a severe impairment, and that Plaintiff‘s diabetes mellitus and high cholesterol were nonsevere. (R. 17-18). At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments. (R. 18-20). The ALJ then found that Plaintiff retained the following residual functional capacity[1]:

Plaintiff can perform a full range of work at all exertion levels with the following nonexertional limitations: he is limited to occasional interaction with the general public and occasional interaction with coworkers and supervisors.

(R. 20-22). At step four, the ALJ found Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work. (R. 22). Finally, at step five, the ALJ used the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2 (hereinafter the ''Grids''), as a framework in determining that there are jobs in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff can perform. (R. 23). In making the step five finding, the ALJ determined that the RFC‘s nonexertional limitations have little or no effect on the occupational base of unskilled work at all exertion levels. (Id.). Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff to be not disabled.

         Discussion

         Plaintiff raises two issues on appeal, which the Court will discuss in the order ...


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