United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
JOHNNY E. BECKNER, Plaintiff,
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security,  Defendant.
Glen E. Conrad, Chief United States District Judge.
has filed this action challenging the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying plaintiffs 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 now before the court are whether the
Commissioner's final decision is supported by substantial
evidence, or whether there is "good cause" to
necessitate remanding the case to the Commissioner for
further consideration. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
plaintiff, Johnny E. Beckner, was born on January 11, 1961,
and eventually completed the eighth grade in school. Later in
life, Mr. Beckner earned a GED. Plaintiff worked for many
years for a paving company, as a crew leader, heavy equipment
operator, and foreman. He last worked on a regular and
sustained basis in 2007. On February 17, 2012, Mr. Beckner
filed an application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits. On April 3, 2012, plaintiff
filed an application for supplemental security income
benefits. Earlier applications for disability insurance
benefits and supplemental security income benefits had proven
unsuccessful. In filing his second and current set of claims,
Mr. Beckner alleged that he became disabled for all forms of
substantial gainful employment on April 27, 2010, due to
heart problems, chest pain, chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease, diverticulitis, depression, neck pain, carpal tunnel
syndrome, bilateral shoulder pain, tremors in hands, and
anxiety. Mr. Beckner now maintains that he has remained
disabled to the present time. As to his application for
disability insurance benefits, the record reveals that
plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act
through the second quarter of 2012, but not thereafter. See
gen., 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i) and 423(a).
Consequently, Mr. Beckner 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
June 30, 2012. See gen,, 42 U.S.C. § 423(a).
Beckner's claims were 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 20, 2015, the Law Judge also
determined that plaintiff is not disabled. The Law Judge
found that Mr. Beckner suffers from several severe
impairments, including coronary artery disease, status post
stenting; asthma; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease;
peripheral neuropathy; and bipolar mood disorder. (TR 55).
Given such a combination of impairments, the Law Judge ruled
that Mr. Beckner is disabled for his past relevant work at
the paving company. However, the Law Judge determined that
plaintiff retains sufficient functional capacity to perform a
limited range of light exertion. The Law Judge assessed Mr.
Beckner's residual functional capacity as follows:
After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), in that he is able to
lift/carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently;
sit, stand, or walk about 6 hours each during an 8-hour
workday; but is limited to no more than occasional overhead
reaching; no ladder/rope/scaffold climbing; and performing
other postural activities, such as bending and stooping, on
an occasional basis. The claimant also must avoid
concentrated exposure to hazards, like unprotected heights or
dangerous moving machinery, as well as temperature extremes,
fumes, odors, dust, gases, and poor ventilation, and he is
limited to no frequent foot controls. Any work should involve
no significant public contact.
(TR 60). Given such a residual functional capacity, and after
considering plaintiffs age, education, and prior work
experience, as well as testimony from a vocational expert,
the Law Judge found that Mr. Beckner retains sufficient
functional capacity to perform several specific light work
roles existing in significant number in the national economy.
(TR 75-76). Accordingly, the Law Judge ultimately concluded
that Mr. Beckner is not disabled, and that he is not entitled
to benefits under either federal program. (TR 76). See
gen., 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g) and
Beckner appealed the Law Judge's decision to the Social
Security Administration's Appeals Council. Shortly after
he filed his appeal, plaintiff submitted a number of new
medical reports documenting treating for his physical
symptoms, and establishing a new, neurological diagnosis.
However, the Appeals Council eventually adopted the Law
Judge's opinion as the final decision of the
Commissioner. Having now exhausted all available
administrative remedies, Mr. Beckner has appealed to this
plaintiff may be disabled for certain forms of employment,
the crucial factual determination is whether plaintiff is
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 skills, and age. Vitek v. Finch, 438 F.2d
1157, 1159-60 (4th Cir. 1971); Underwood v. Ribicoff
298 F.2d 850, 851 (4th Cir. 1962).
review of the record of this case, the court must conclude
that there is substantial evidence to support the
Commissioner's denial of plaintiff s claim for disability
insurance benefits. Mr. Beckner has a history of treatment
for chest pain, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,
musculoskeletal complaints, and bipolar disorder. Plaintiff
has a history of myocardial infarction, and has undergone
stent placement to relieve coronary artery disease. Mr.
Beckner has a history of musculoskeletal complaints, though
there was no objective evidence of mechanical defect during
the period in which he enjoyed insured status. As for his
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, ventilatory studies
have produced unremarkable results. Although plaintiff s
doctors have treated him for anxiety, stress, and bipolar
symptoms, Mr. Beckner has not received regular treatment from
a mental health specialist. His doctors consider his
emotional symptoms to be largely controlled through
court believes that the Commissioner reasonably relied on a
consultative report from Dr. William C. Humphries in
concluding that Mr. Beckner retained the capacity to perform
light exertional activity, at least during the period in
which he still enjoyed insured status. Dr. Humphries examined
plaintiff on July 18, 2013. Dr. Humphries noted that
plaintiff experienced two myocardial infarctions in 2007, and
that he continues to experience occasional chest pain
relieved with nitroglycerin. (TR 781). Dr. Humphries reported
that plaintiffs breathing problems are also controlled with
medication. (TR 781). The consultant confirmed a history of
musculoskeletal pain, especially in the neck and low back.
(TR 781). Dr. Humphries noted mild limitation of motion in
the shoulders and ankles. Dr. Humphries listed Mr.
Beckner's diagnoses as follows:
2. Chronic cervicothoracic lumbar strain.
3. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease mild.
4. Coronary artery disease by history status post myocardial