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C.B.W. v. U.S. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

February 13, 2018

C.B.W. (XXX-XX-1662)
v.
U.S. COMMISSIONER SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

          FOOTE JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Mark L. Hornsby U.S. Magistrate Judge

         Introduction

         C.B.W. (“Plaintiff”) was born in 1952, has a high school education, and has work experience in a lumber mill and a chicken processing plant. He had a heart attack that has left him with chest pains and related limitations. He quit working in January 2014 and applied for disability benefits.

         ALJ Charles Lindsay conducted a hearing and issued a written decision. He found that Plaintiff was not disabled because he could perform the demands of one of his prior jobs, a sizer grader in a lumber mill, and the Appeals Council denied a request for review. Plaintiff filed this civil action to request the limited judicial review allowed by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). He complains that the ALJ and a vocational expert improperly characterized his prior job as less demanding than it really was. For the reasons that follow, it is recommended that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed.

         Determination of Disability; the Five-Step Process

         The Social Security Act entitles certain persons to disability benefits or supplemental security income benefits if they are disabled within the meaning of the law. The Act defines disabled persons as those who are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. The Act requires the Commissioner to establish by regulation uniform standards for the adjudication of claims.

         Disability Insurance Benefits (Part 404) eligibility and amount are tied to the applicant's earnings history. Supplemental Security Income or SSI (Part 416) has no minimum earnings prerequisite and pays a fixed monthly benefit to all recipients. Plaintiff has applied for both forms of benefits. The law governing the determination of disability under either program is the same. Haywood v. Sullivan, 888 F.2d 1463, 1467 (5th Cir. 1989). The Commissioner has developed a five-step sequential evaluation to make the disability assessment:

1. The claimant must not be engaging in substantial gainful work activity.
2. The claimant must have a “severe” impairment as defined by Stone v. Heckler, 752 F.2d 1099, 1101 (5th Cir. 1985).
3. If the impairment meets or equals an impairment listed in Appendix 1 of the regulations the person will be considered disabled without consideration of vocational factors.
4. A claimant capable of performing his past relevant work is not disabled.
5. If a claimant cannot perform his past work, other factors including age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity (“RFC”) must be considered to determine if he can perform other work.

42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 (DIB); and 416.920 (SSI). The claimant has the burden on the first four steps of the analysis. Bowen v. Yuckert, 107 S.Ct. 2287, 2294 n. 5 (1987). The burden shifts to the Commissioner on the fifth step. Id. “A finding that a claimant is disabled or is not disabled at any point in the five-step review is conclusive ...


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