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Ramsey v. Colvin

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

December 13, 2013

KENT JEROME RAMSEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, [1] Defendant.

Lewey K. Lee, Lee & Phipps, PC, Wise, Virginia, for Plaintiff

Eric P. Kressman, Regional Chief Counsel, Region III, Timothy F. Kennedy, Assistant Regional Counsel, and Maija Pelly DiDomenico, Special Assistant United States Attorney, Office of the General Counsel, Social Security Administration, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

James P. Jones United States District Judge

In this Social Security disability case, I affirm the decision of the Commissioner.

I

Plaintiff Kent Jerome Ramsey filed this action challenging the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the “Commissioner”) denying his claim for a disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act (“Act”), 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 401-434 (West 2011 & Supp. 2013). Jurisdiction of this court exists under 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 405(g).

Ramsey filed for DIB on August 4, 2008, alleging disability beginning July 10, 2008, due to bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, knee injuries, and “bad nerves.” (R. 191.) After preliminary denials of his claims, he obtained a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) on November 18, 2010, at which he was represented by counsel and during which he testified along with an impartial vocational expert. On December 10, 2010, the ALJ issued a written decision finding that Ramsey was not disabled under the Act. Ramsey requested review by the Social Security Administration’s Appeals Council. The Appeals Council denied his request for review on May 24, 2012, thereby making the ALJ’s decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Ramsey then filed this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner’s decision.

The parties have filed cross motions for summary judgment, which have been briefed. The case is ripe for decision.

II

At the time of the alleged onset date of disability, Ramsey was 43 years old. He has an eighth-grade education and has worked in the past as a tire mechanic, underground coal miner, dump truck driver, and loader operator. In his written decision, the ALJ reviewed Ramsey’s medical history and the testimony presented at the hearing and set forth at length the reasons for his factual findings. He found that Ramsey had the severe impairments of “osteoarthritis and allied disorders and borderline intellectual functioning.” (R. 25.) He determined that Ramsey did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments set forth in the Social Security regulations. The ALJ found that Ramsey had the residual functional capacity to perform medium work as defined in the regulations, with appropriate limitations. While Ramsey could not return to his past work, the ALJ determined — based upon the testimony of the vocational expert — that Ramsey was capable of performing jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy and was not disabled.

It is contended in the present case that the ALJ erred in failing to properly analyze in his decision the evaluation of Ramsey’s mental impairments by B. Wayne Lanthorn, Ph.D., a psychologist to whom Ramsey was referred by his lawyer. In addition, it is argued that the ALJ was mistaken in his determination of Ramsey’s residual functional capacity.

III

The plaintiff bears the burden of proving that he is under a disability. Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 775 (4th Cir. 1972). The standard for disability is strict. The plaintiff must show that his “physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy . . . .” 42 U.S.C.A. § 423(d)(2)(A).

In assessing disability claims, the Commissioner applies a five-step sequential evaluation process. The Commissioner considers whether the claimant: (1) has worked during the alleged period of disability; (2) has a severe impairment; (3) has a condition that meets or equals the severity of a listed impairment; (4) could return to his past relevant work; and (5) if not, whether he could perform other work present in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4) (2013). The fourth and fifth steps of the inquiry require an assessment of the claimant’s residual functional capacity, ...


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