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Peralta v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Colorado

May 16, 2014

FRANK J. PERALTA, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Social Security Commissioner, Defendant.

ORDER AFFIRMING ALJ'S DECISION DENYING SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS

CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on review of the Commissioner's decision to deny Plaintiff Frank J. Peralta's ("Plaintiff") application for social security disability benefits prior to January 1, 2012, [1] under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-33. Jurisdiction is proper under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed an application for disability benefits, alleging a disability onset date of January 8, 2010. Plaintiff was born on April 1, 1948, and was 61 years old on the date of his alleged disability onset. (AR at 11, 39.)[2] After his initial application was denied, Plaintiff requested a hearing, which was held on August 4, 2010, before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (AR at 21.)

Plaintiff testified that he worked as an electrician for 40 years. The last date he worked was on January 7th or 8th of 2010, at which time he was laid off because he "couldn't adequately do the work." (AR at 27, 32.) He received unemployment following his termination from employment for 99 weeks, until December 2011. As a requirement for receiving unemployment, Plaintiff certified to the State of Colorado that he was ready and able to work and, in fact, looked for work with electrical employers, suppliers, and sign companies. (AR at 27-29.)

Plaintiff testified that he could no longer kneel because his knee is damaged and he could not lift because he has arthritis in his shoulders. (AR at 33.) He also testified that he previously typed 35 words per minute, but he can no longer type the way he used to due to arthritis in his hands. (AR at 34.) He believes that if he were to attempt to work as an electrician, he would endanger himself and others to potential electrocution. (AR at 34-35.) His last position was as a service manager, which entailed taking service calls and dispatching journeymen electricians. However, that position required him to type or write, which he could no longer do. (AR at 35.)

On March 1, 2012, the ALJ issued a partially favorable decision, awarding Plaintiff benefits from January 1, 2012 onward, but denying benefits from January 8, 2010 until January 1, 2012. (AR at 10-21.) Because Plaintiff challenges only the denial of benefits between his alleged disability onset date of January 8, 2010 until January 1, 2012, the Court will focus on that portion of the ALJ's decision. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through February 28, 2014. In applying the five-step sequential evaluation process outlined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 and 416.920 to determine whether Plaintiff was disabled, the ALJ determined that:

1. Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date of January 8, 2010 [Step 1];
2. Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: osteoarthritis of the bilateral hands, left shoulder, left knee, and lumbar spine [Step 2];
3. Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 [Step 3];
4. Prior to January 1, 2012, Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") "to perform medium work, as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c), except the claimant could perform no more than occasional kneeling or overhead lifting with the left upper extremity." [Step 4]; and
5. Prior to January 1, 2012, Plaintiff was able to perform his past relevant work as a service manager [Step 5].

Plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council review this portion of the ALJ's decision, which it declined to do. (AR at 1-3.) On July 30, 2013, Plaintiff filed his appeal to this Court of the Commissioner's final decision. (Doc. # 1.) Plaintiff filed his opening brief on December 16, 2013, the Commissioner responded on January 15, 2013, ...


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