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Hein v. Saul

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

September 19, 2019

GERHARD HEIN, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner, Social Security Administration,[1] Defendant.

          ORDER

          AMANDA ARNOLD SANSONE United States Magistrate Judge.

         Gerhard Hein seeks judicial review of a decision by the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) denying his claim for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. Sections 1383(c)(3) and 405(g). After reviewing the record, including a transcript of the proceedings before the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), the administrative record, the pleadings, and the joint memorandum the parties submitted, the Commissioner’s decision is AFFIRMED.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Mr. Hein applied for DIB on October 3, 2014 and SSI on October 6, 2014. (Tr. 66–67, 158–63). Mr. Hein alleges a disability onset date of September 9, 2014. (Tr. 69, 158). Mr. Hein’s claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 75, 83, 92, 102, 109–23). Mr. Hein requested a hearing before an ALJ, which was held on March 2, 2017, (Tr. 37–65, 128). The ALJ issued a decision unfavorable to Mr. Hein on June 14, 2017. (Tr. 12–26).

         The Appeals Council denied Mr. Hein’s request for review, making the ALJ’s decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1–3). Mr. Hein seeks judicial review of the Commissioner’s final decision. (Doc. 1, p. 1).

         II. NATURE OF DISABILITY CLAIM

         A. Background

         Mr. Hein was forty-six years old when he submitted his SSI and DIB applications. (Tr. 66, 158). He was forty-eight years old when the ALJ held the hearing. (Tr. 43). Mr. Hein has a limited education and can communicate in English. (Tr. 25). Mr. Hein’s past relevant work included home builder (new constructions or remodels) and horticultural worker. (Tr. 24, 45–46). Mr. Hein claimed disability because of a dislocated right shoulder and torn right rotator cuff. (Tr. 81).

         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 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 performing past relevant work, he is not disabled. §§ 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 other work in the national economy, he is not disabled. §§ 404.1520(g), 416.920(g).

         The ALJ determined Mr. Hein had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date of September 9, 2014. (Tr. 17). The ALJ found Mr. Hein had these severe impairments: arthritis and degenerative join disease of the right shoulder and degenerative disc disease. (Tr. 17–18). However, the ALJ found Mr. Hein’s impairments or combination of impairments fail to meet or medically equal the severity of an impairment in the Listings. (Tr. 18).

         The ALJ found Mr. Hein had the RFC to perform light work,[5] with these added limitations:

lifting and/or carrying and pushing and/or pulling 10 pounds occasionally and lesser weights frequently; sitting for six hours out of an eight-hour day; occasional operation of hand controls with the right upper extremity; no overhead reaching with the right upper extremity, but all other reaching can be performed on a frequent basis bilaterally; occasionally climbing ramps and stairs, but can never climb ladders, ropes, scaffolds; and occasionally balancing, stooping, kneeling, or crouching, but can never crawl.

(Tr. 18–19).

         Based on these findings, the ALJ determined Mr. Hein could not perform his past relevant work as either a house builder or horticultural worker. (Tr. 24). The ALJ then determined Mr. Hein could perform other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy, specifically as a ticket taker, inspector/hand packager, or cashier. (Tr. 25–26). As a result, the ALJ found Mr. Hein not disabled. (Tr. 26).

         III. ...


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