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Lanzer v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 13, 2017

CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


          WILLIAM I. GARFINKEL United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Joshua Kane Lanzer 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. # 18]. Defendant has responded with a motion to affirm the decision of the Commissioner. [Doc. # 19]. The undersigned heard oral argument on March 6, 2017. 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.


         Plaintiff received disability benefits from February 2008 until September 2012 based on a diagnosis of leukemia, for which he received treatment including a bone marrow transplant. The leukemia went into remission in 2010. After a continuing disability review, the Commissioner determined that Plaintiff's health had improved such that he could perform light, unskilled work. Plaintiff was sent notice of the Commissioner's decision to terminate benefits in July 2012 (the “July 2012 Notice”). The July 2012 Notice informed Plaintiff that his final benefits payment would be in September 2012, and of his appeal rights. Plaintiff did not appeal the July 2012 Notice. Plaintiff also did not move to reopen the agency determination to cease benefits.

         Plaintiff filed new DIB and SSI applications on January 7, 2013, alleging a disability onset date of August 15, 2012. His claims were denied at both the initial and reconsideration levels. Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a hearing. On June 13, 2014, a hearing was held before administrative law judge Lisa Groeneveld-Meijer (the “ALJ”). Plaintiff and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified at the hearing. On August 28, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's claims. The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's unfavorable decision the final decision of the Commissioner. This action followed.

         The briefs accompanying the motions outline Plaintiff's medical history. The Court adopts the facts as collectively presented in the briefs and incorporates them by reference herein.

         The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ followed the sequential evaluation process for assessing disability claims. At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. (R. 14). At step two, the ALJ found the following severe impairments: cervical disc degeneration; cervical myelopathy; major depressive disorder, recurrent; generalized anxiety disorder; post-traumatic stress disorder; and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, inattentive type. (Id.). At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments. (R. 14-15). Next, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retains the following residual functional capacity[1]:

Plaintiff can perform light work. He cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. He can frequently climb ramps and stairs, stoop, kneel, and crouch. He can occasionally work overhead. He may need to alternate between siting and standing two or three times per hour for one to two minutes to stretch, or take additional brief, unscheduled breaks of up to five minutes per hour. He can perform simple, routine, repetitive work with few, if any, changes day-to-day, in a work environment free of fast-paced production requirements (such as timed work, belt-paced work, or work with strict quotas). He can have brief and superficial contact with others and no direct contact with the general public on shift.

(R. 15-22). At step four, the ALJ found Plaintiff unable to perform any past relevant work. (R. 22). Finally, at step five, the ALJ relied on the testimony of the VE to conclude that there are jobs in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff can perform. (R. 22-23). Specifically, the VE testified that a person with the assessed RFC could perform the positions of laundry and linen folder, mail room clerk, and delivery marker and router. (R. 23). Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff not to be disabled.


         1. The July ...

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