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Crossley v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

July 24, 2015

ROBERT CROSSLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

GEORGE A. O'TOOLE, District Judge.

I. Introduction

The plaintiff, Robert Crossley, appeals the denial of his application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"). Crossley applied for SSI benefits on November 16, 2009, claiming he had become disabled on July 9, 2009. (Administrative Tr. at 11 [hereinafter R.].)[1] Crossley's application was denied at the initial level of review on July 23, 2010, and upon reconsideration on October 13, 2010. (Id.) On November 19, 2010, Crossley filed a written request for hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (Id.)

The hearing was held on March 9, 2012 before ALJ Constance Carter. (Id. at 21-49.) Crossley was represented by attorney William Gately at the hearing, at which Crossley and a vocational expert provided oral testimony. (Id.) On March 30, 2012, the ALJ issued a written decision finding that, although Crossley could no longer perform his past relevant work, there were other jobs he could still perform. (Id. at 16-17.) Accordingly, the ALJ determined that a finding of "not disabled" was appropriate. (Id. at 17.) The Appeals Council denied Crossley's request for review on April 12, 2013. (Id. at 1-3.)

Before the Court is Crossley's Motion for Judgment reversing the Commissioner's decision (dkt. no. 13) and alternatively the Commissioner's Motion for Order Affirming the Decision (dkt. no. 15). The Court now affirms the Commissioner's decision because there is substantial evidence in the administrative record to support it and no error of law was made.

II. Background

Crossley was fifty-one years old when he applied for SSI benefits. He has a high school education. Before the alleged onset of disability on July 9, 2009, he worked as a housepainter. (Id. at 16.) Crossley claims he is disabled from a combination of hypertension and impairments following surgery to his wrist. (Id. at 13.)

A. Medical History

In July 2009 Crossley suffered a fall that fractured his right wrist. (Id. at 184.) The injury required realignment surgery in August and hardware removal in September 2009. (Id. at 181, 209-11). Prior to the fall, he had a history of hypertension and a right arm crush injury requiring nerve and tendon repair. (Id. at 184.)

B. The ALJ's Decision

The ALJ's opinion tracked the five-step sequential evaluation process mandated by 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a) and 416.920(a) to determine whether Crossley was disabled. (Id. at 11-17.) In Crossley's case, the ALJ determined that Crossley was not disabled at step five. (Id. at 17.)

At the first step, the ALJ determined that Crossley had not engaged in "substantial gainful activity" since November 16, 2009, his application date. (Id. at 13.)

At the second step, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has a "severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment" that also meets the duration requirements. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii). The ALJ found that Crossley had a severe impairment, "status post right wrist surgery." (R. at 13 (citing 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c)).) She also found that Crossley's other claimed impairment, hypertension, was not "severe." (Id.) Crossley does not challenge the latter conclusion in this appeal.

Step three, like step two, considers the severity of the alleged impairment. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iii). The ALJ found that Crossley's impairment did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment[2] and therefore proceeded to assess his Residual ...


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