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Lester v. Colvin

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

March 30, 2015

CHRISTOPHER K. LESTER, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM L. OSTEEN, Jr., District Judge.

Plaintiff Christopher K. Lester ("Plaintiff") initiated this action pursuant to Section 1631(c)(3) of the Social Security Act (the "Act"), codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. ยง 1383(c)(3), to obtain review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his claim for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Act.

Plaintiff subsequently filed a Motion for Judgment Reversing the Decision of the Commissioner (Doc. 13), and the Commissioner has filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Doc. 15). Plaintiff has responded to the Commissioner's motion. (Doc. 17.) The administrative record has been certified to this court for review.[1]

For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's motion will be granted, Plaintiff's motion will be denied, and this case will be dismissed with prejudice.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff received SSI benefits as a minor under Title XVI of the Act based on disability. (Tr. at 13.) After attaining the age of eighteen, and in accordance with the governing law, Plaintiff was reevaluated to determine whether he qualified to receive SSI benefits as an adult. (Id. at 13, 60-65.) He was denied benefits initially and upon reconsideration. (Id. at 13.) Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), and after the hearing, the ALJ determined[2] that Plaintiff's disability ended on May 1, 2009. (Id.) Therefore, because Plaintiff had not been disabled since that date, he was not eligible for SSI benefits.

In her decision, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had a severe impairment, namely, mild intellectual disability.[3] (Id. at 15.) The ALJ recognized that Plaintiff had been diagnosed with and treated for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD"), depression, anxiety, Tourette syndrome, acid reflux, and cervicalgia, but these conditions were not "severe" impairments. (See id. at 16.) Although Plaintiff's intellectual disability "more than minimally impacts [Plaintiff's] ability to perform work-related functions, " the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments, "considered singly and in combination, [did] not meet or medically equal" the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1. (Id. at 15, 17.) The ALJ specifically considered Listings 12.02, 12.03, 12.04, 12.05, and 12.06, defining various mental disorders. (See id. at 17.)

The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC")[4] to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with certain non-exertional limitations, including that Plaintiff can follow only short, simple instructions; can make simple work-related decisions; can tolerate few workplace changes; can tolerate occasional interaction with the general public, coworkers, and supervisors; should not be required to read instructions or write reports; and should not be required to perform mathematical computations. (Id. at 21.) Based on Plaintiff's age, education, and RFC, the ALJ determined that there were significant numbers of jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. (Id. at 23-24.) As a result, Plaintiff had not been disabled since May 1, 2009, and was not entitled to SSI benefits. (Id.)

On July 23, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's determination the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of review. (Id. at 1-5.)

II. ANALYSIS

Plaintiff raises multiple overlapping arguments to support his contention that the ALJ "erred by finding that Plaintiff does not meet Listing 12.05(c)." (Pl.'s Br. Supp. Mot. to Reverse the Decision of the Commissioner ("Pl.'s Br.") (Doc. 14) at 2.) However, as explained below, the ALJ's decision was rendered according to the governing law and is anchored in substantial evidence.

Listing 12.05 provides the criteria by which the ALJ could find that someone has an "intellectual disability." The Listing defines "intellectual disability" as:

[S]ignificantly subaverage general intellectual functioning with deficits in adaptive functioning initially manifested during the developmental period; i.e., the evidence demonstrates or supports onset of the impairment before age 22.
The required level of severity for this disorder is met when the requirements in A, B, C, or D are satisfied.
....
C. A valid verbal, performance, or full scale IQ of 60 through 70 and a physical or other mental impairment imposing an additional and ...

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