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McNeal v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

August 27, 2018

BRANDON MCNEAL, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN E. MARTIN MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by Plaintiff Brandon McNeal on December 4, 2017, and Plaintiff's Brief in Support of Reversing the Decision of the Commissioner of Social Security [DE 15], filed by Plaintiff on January 31, 2018. Plaintiff requests that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge be reversed and remanded for benefits or further proceedings. On March 6, 2018, the Commissioner filed a response, and on April 5, 2018, Plaintiff filed a reply.

         I. Procedural Background

         On November 8, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for benefits alleging that he became disabled on January 20, 2012. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. On March 16, 2016, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Howard Kauffman held a video hearing at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert testified. Plaintiff was unrepresented and waived his right to counsel. On March 30, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled.

         The ALJ made the following findings under the required five-step analysis:

1. The claimant last met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act on June 30, 2015.
2. The claimant did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the period from his alleged onset date of January 20, 2012, through June 30, 2015, his date last insured.
3. Through the date last insured, the claimant had the following severe impairments: degenerative joint disease of the bilateral knees, status post bilateral total knee replacements, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, and obesity.
4. Through the date last insured, the claimant did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
5. Through the date last insured, the claimant had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except that he can only occasionally climb ramps and stairs and occasionally balance, stoop, and kneel. He can never crouch or crawl and never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds.
6. Through the date last insured, the claimant was unable to perform any past relevant work.
7. The claimant was 44 years old, defined as a younger individual age 18-44, on the date last insured. The claimant subsequently changed age category to a younger individual age 45-49.
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English.
9. 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, ” ...

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