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Bigica v. Saul

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

September 6, 2019

SAM BIGICA, III, Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, [1] Defendant.



         Sam Bigica, III seeks judicial review of a decision by the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) denying his claim Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income Benefits (SSI) under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 405(g). After reviewing the record, including a transcript of the proceedings before the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), administrative record, pleadings, and the parties' joint memorandum, the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.


         On October 15, 2012, Mr. Bigica applied for DIB and SSI due to alleged disability beginning on February 13, 2019. (Tr. 200-14). Mr. Bigica's claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. 89-90). Mr. Bigica requested and received a hearing before an ALJ, and the hearing was held on October 15, 2014. (Tr. 34-62, 998-1026). The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on December 11, 2014. (Tr. 14-33). The Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 1-4, 891- 94).

         Mr. Bigica appealed the ALJ's decision to this court, who remanded the claim for further consideration. (Tr. 698-711, 895-910). The ALJ held a subsequent hearing and issued an unfavorable decision on May 18, 2018. (Tr. 638-63, 664-89). Mr. Bigica requests review of the ALJ's May 18, 2018 decision in this court. (Doc. 1).


         A. Background

         Mr. Bigica was forty-one years old on the alleged onset date and fifty-one years old on the date of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 202, 226, 654). Mr. Bigica has a high school education and past relevant work experience as a construction superintendent. (Tr. 271, 684, 1114). Mr. Bigaca alleged disability because of depression, sleep apnea neuropathy, memory problems, post-traumatic stress syndrome, diabetes, back pain, arthritis, neck fusion, high blood pressure, hepatitis C, and right ankle problems. (Tr. 270, 1122).

         B. Summary of the ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ must follow five steps when evaluating a claim for disability.[2] 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a). First, if a claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, [3] he is not disabled. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). Second, if a claimant has no impairment or combination of impairments that significantly limit his physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities, he has no severe impairment and is not disabled. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c); see McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1031 (11th Cir. 1986) (stating that step two acts as a filter and “allows only claims based on the most trivial impairments to be rejected”). Third, if a claimant's impairments fail to meet or equal an impairment in the Listings, he is not disabled. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d); 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1. Fourth, if a claimant's impairments do not prevent him from doing past relevant work, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). At this fourth step, the ALJ determines the claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC).[4] Fifth, if a claimant's impairments (considering his RFC, age, education, and past work) do not prevent him from performing work that exists in the national economy, he is not disabled. §§ 404.1520(g), 416.920(g).

         The ALJ here determined Mr. Bigica did not engage in substantial gainful activity since the onset date. (Tr. 643). The ALJ found Mr. Bigica has these severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, obesity, depression, anxiety, diabetes, venous insufficiency, and sleep apnea. (Id.). However, the ALJ found Mr. Bigica's impairments or combination of impairments failed to meet or medically equal the severity of an impairment in the Listings. (Tr. 644).

         The ALJ then found Mr. Bigica has the RFC to perform a full range of light work, [5] except:

[Mr. Bigica] can lift up to twenty pounds occasionally and lift and carry up to ten pounds frequently. [Mr. Bigica] can stand and walk for six hours out of an eight-hour day with normal breaks. [Mr. Bigica] can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, but can occasionally climb rampa and stairs, balance, stoop, crouch, kneel and crawl. [Mr. Bigica] must avoid concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritants such as fumes, odors, dusts, and gases. [Mr. Bigaca] is limited to unskilled work, with an SVP 1 or 2, simple, routine, repetitive tasks. [Mr. Bigica] can have occasional interaction with the public and tolerate occasional changes in the work setting.

(Tr. 645). Based on these findings, the ALJ determined Mr. Bigica could not perform his past relevant work. (Tr. 653). However, Mr. Bigica could perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. (Id.). Specifically, Mr. Bigica could perform the jobs of housecleaner, advertising material, and ...

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