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Miller v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Nevada

October 23, 2019

ROBERT J. MILLER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BRENDA WEKSLER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The case involves review of an administrative action by the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying Robert Miller's (Plaintiff's) application for disability insurance benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. The court reviewed Plaintiff's Motion for Reversal and/or Remand (ECF No. 18), filed April 27, 2018, and Defendant's Cross Motion to Affirm and Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Reversal and/or Remand (ECF Nos. 19, 20), filed May 25, 2018. Plaintiff did not file a reply. This matter was referred to the undersigned magistrate judge on May 6, 2019 for a report of findings and recommendations under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B)-(C) and Local Rule IB 1-4.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         In September 2013, Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the Act, alleging an onset date of October 1, 2012. AR[1] 273, 275. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's claims initially and upon reconsideration. AR 189-93, 196-201. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held hearings on October 20, 2015, and June 6, 2016. AR 39-82, 83-123. On September 14, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled. AR 19-38. On November 14, 2016, Plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's decision. AR 271-72. The Appeals Council denied this request on August 15, 2017, making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision. AR 1-6. On October 6, 2017, Plaintiff commenced this action for judicial review under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g). (See ECF No. 1.)

         B. The ALJ Decision

         The ALJ followed the five-step sequential evaluation process set forth in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 and 416.920.

         At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity since October 1, 2012. AR 24.

         At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, congenital nystagmus, and right knee pain. Id.

         At step three, the ALJ determined Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R., Part 404, Subpt. P, App. 1 (the listings). AR 27.

         Next, the ALJ found that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to lift and/or carry 25 pounds occasionally, 20 pounds frequently; stand and/or walk for four hours in an 8-hour workday and sit for six hours in an 8-hour workday. The ALJ found that Plaintiff could not occasionally climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, but could occasionally climb ramps and stairs, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. The ALJ further found that Plaintiff had limited depth perception for distance and speed and needed to avoid concentrated exposure to vibrations and hazards. Finally, the ALJ found that Plaintiff may need a cane to walk on uneven surfaces and for prolonged distances but is able to carry small objects in his other hand. Id.

         At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could not perform past relevant work. AR 30.

         At step five, and with the assistance of the vocational expert, the ALJ found that there were jobs existing in significant numbers that someone with Plaintiff's vocational profile could perform. AR 31-32. The ALJ therefore found Plaintiff “not disabled” as defined in the Act. AR 32.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         Administrative decisions in social security disability benefits cases are reviewed under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See Akopyan v. Barnhart, 296 F.3d ...


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