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Finnerty v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division

June 5, 2018

JAMES PATRICK FINNERTY III, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          KARLA R. SPAULDING UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         TO THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT:

         This cause came on for consideration without oral argument on the Complaint filed by Plaintiff James Patrick Finnerty III seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his claim for social security benefits, Doc. No. 1, the answer and certified copy of the record before the Social Security Administration (“SSA”), Doc. Nos. 12, 14, and the parties' Joint Memorandum, [1] Doc. No. 16.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY.

         In 2011, Finnerty filed applications for benefits under the Federal Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance Programs (“OASDI”), 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq., and under the Supplemental Security Income for the Aged, Blind and Disabled Program (“SSI”), 42 U.S.C. § 1381, et seq. R. 167, 171. He initially alleged that he became disabled on April 5, 1998, see id., but he later amended the alleged disability onset date to July 6, 1998, see R. 39-40, 186.

         After his applications were denied at all levels of administrative review, Finnerty filed a complaint in this Court. On December 28, 2015, the Court reversed the final decision of the Commissioner and remanded the case for further proceedings. Doc. No. 631-32; Finnerty v. Commissioner, No. 6:14-cv-2052-Orl-28KRS, Doc. No. 21 (M.D. Fla. Dec. 12, 2015).

         On remand, the Appeals Council vacated the final decision of the Commissioner and remanded the case to an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) for proceedings consistent with the Court's order. R. 657. While the appeal was pending, Finnerty filed another SSI application. R. 760. The Appeals Council directed the ALJ to consolidate the new application with the previous applications and to issue a new decision. R. 657.

         An ALJ held another hearing on December 22, 2016. Finnerty, accompanied by an attorney, and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. R. 576-607.

         After considering the hearing testimony and the evidence in the record, the ALJ found that Finnerty was insured under OASDI through December 31, 2003. R. 556. The ALJ concluded that Finnerty had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 6, 1998, the alleged disability onset date. Id.

         The ALJ found that Finnerty had the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus with peripheral neuropathy; lumbar degenerative disc disease; and adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder. Id. These impairments, individually and in combination, did not meet or equal a listed impairment. R. 558.

         The ALJ found that Finnerty had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work with the following additional limitations:

[T]he claimant can only occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ramps and stairs. The claimant cannot climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds. The claimant cannot reach overhead, and can tolerate no more than frequent handling with his dominant, right upper extremity. The claimant must avoid concentrated exposure to wetness, humidity, vibrations, work around moving, mechanical parts, or work around unprotected heights. The claimant is limited to work that allows for a 30-minute sit-stand option, with the claimant being given a five-minute stretch break at the workstation.

Id. In making this assessment, the ALJ found that Finnerty's reports of functional limitations were not entirely consistent with medical evidence and other evidence in the record. R. 560.

         The ALJ found that Finnerty could not return to his past relevant work as a certified nursing assistant. R. 565. After considering the testimony of the VE, the ALJ concluded that there were light and sedentary unskilled jobs available in the national economy that Finnerty could perform. R. 566-67. Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Finnerty was not disabled. R. 567. Finnerty did not file exceptions to this decision and, therefore, it became the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Finnerty now seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner by this Court.

         JURISDICTION AND STANDARD OF REVIEW.

         Finnerty having exhausted his administrative remedies, the Court has jurisdiction to review the decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), as adopted by reference in 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3). A court's review of a final decision by the SSA is limited to determining whether the ALJ's factual findings are supported by substantial evidence, Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005) (per curiam), and whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards, Lamb v. Bowen, 847 F.2d 698, 701 (11th Cir. 1988).

         SUMMARY ...


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