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Beckner v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

July 23, 2014

ROY M. BECKNER, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant

For Roy M. Beckner, Jr., Plaintiff: Amy Hansen Geddes, LEAD ATTORNEY, Osterhoudt Prillaman Natt Helscher Yost Maxwell & Ferguson, Roanoke, VA.

For Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner Social Security Administration, Defendant: Stephen Mark Ball, LEAD ATTORNEY, Office of General Counsel, SSA, Philadelphia, PA .

Page 627

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Hon. Glen E. Conrad, Chief United States District Judge.

Plaintiff has filed this action challenging the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying plaintiff's claims for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits under the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § § 416(i) and 423, and 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq., respectively. Jurisdiction of this court is pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3). As reflected by the memoranda and argument submitted by the parties, the issues before this court are whether the Commissioner's final decision is supported by substantial evidence, and if it is not, whether plaintiff has met the burden of proof as prescribed by and pursuant to the Act. Stated briefly, substantial evidence has been defined as such relevant evidence, considering the record as a whole, as might be found adequate to support a conclusion by a reasonable mind. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401,

Page 628

91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971).

The plaintiff, Roy M. Beckner, Jr., was born on April 17, 1975. Mr. Beckner eventually received a high school diploma in a special education setting. Plaintiff has been employed as a dishwasher, line worker in a furniture manufacturing operation, custodian, and lawn care worker. He last worked on a regular and sustained basis in 2006. On May 21, 2010, Mr. Beckner applied for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits. On June 14, 2010, he filed a claim for supplemental security income benefits. In claiming entitlement to social security benefits, Mr. Beckner alleged that he became disabled for all forms of substantial gainful employment on August 31, 2006, due to obesity; bilateral knee pain and weakness; severe insomnia; learning disabilities; memory problems; arthritis in both ankles; pain in right wrist; and back pain. He now maintains that he has remained disabled to the present time. As to his application for disability insurance benefits, the record reveals that Mr. Beckner met the insured status requirements of the Act through the fourth quarter of 2008, but not thereafter. See gen., 42 U.S.C. § § 416(i) and 423(a). Consequently, plaintiff is entitled to disability insurance benefits only if he has established that he became disabled for all forms of substantial gainful employment on or before December 31, 2008. See, gen., 42 U.S.C. § 423(a).

Mr. Beckner's claim was denied upon initial consideration and reconsideration. He then requested and received a de novo hearing and review before an Administrative Law Judge. In an opinion dated April 25, 2012, the Law Judge also determined that plaintiff is not disabled. The Law Judge found that Mr. Beckner experiences severe impairments on the bases of obesity and borderline intellectual functioning. The Law Judge ruled that plaintiff is disabled for all of his past relevant work roles. However, the Law Judge held that plaintiff retains sufficient functional capacity for a limited range of light work. The Law Judge assessed Mr. Beckner's residual functional capacity as follows:

After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except the claimant can perform no repetitive foot controls with the right lower extremity. The claimant can occasionally climb. He cannot kneel or crawl. The claimant cannot work around heights or hazards. He is limited to simple, routine, repetitive unskilled work that does not involve any reading or writing. The claimant cannot work around the public and can occasionally work around coworkers and supervisors.

(TR 17). Given such a residual functional capacity, and after considering Mr. Beckner's age, education, and prior work experience, as well as testimony from a vocational expert, the Law Judge determined that plaintiff retains sufficient functional capacity to perform several specific light work roles existing in significant number in the national economy. Accordingly, the Law Judge ultimately concluded that Mr. Beckner is not disabled, and that he is not entitled to benefits under either federal program. See, gen., 20 C.F.R. § § 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g). The Law Judge's opinion was adopted as the final decision of the Commissioner by the Social Security Administration's Appeals Council. Having exhausted all available administrative remedies, Mr. Beckner has now appealed to this court.

While plaintiff may be disabled for certain forms of employment, the crucial factual determination is whether plaintiff is

Page 629

disabled for all forms of substantial gainful employment. See 42 U.S.C. § § 423(d)(2) and 1382c(a). There are four elements of proof which must be considered in making such an analysis. These elements are summarized as follows: (1) objective medical facts and clinical findings; (2) the opinions and conclusions of treating physicians; (3) subjective evidence of physical manifestations of impairments, as described through a claimant's testimony; and (4) the claimant's education, vocational history, residual ...


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