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Waddell v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Arizona

November 21, 2016

Dennis Waddell, Plaintiff,
v.
Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ORDER

          James A. Teilborg Senior United States District Judge.

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner's denial of his application for social security disability benefits. The parties are familiar with Plaintiff's medical history; therefore, the Court will discuss it below only as necessary for the decision.

         On appeal, Plaintiff claims the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) committed three errors that require reversal for an award of benefits; specifically, Plaintiff claims the ALJ erred by: 1) finding that Plaintiff could perform jobs that are inconsistent with Plaintiff's residual functional capacity; 2) not finding Plaintiff's knee, wrist, and urinary conditions more severe; and 3) not finding Plaintiff credible. The Court will address each of these claims of error in turn.[1]

         I. Jobs within Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity

         The ALJ found a number of limitations impacted Plaintiff. Doc. 8-3 at 17. Based on those limitations, the ALJ determined Plaintiff's residual functional capacity.[2] Id. The ALJ then found Plaintiff could perform three jobs that are available in the economy; specifically: 1) Hand Packer; 2) Linen Room Attendant; and 3) Dishwasher. Doc. 8-3 at 22.

         A. Hand Packer

         Plaintiff argues that because the ALJ found he could only frequently use his upper extremities for fine and gross manipulation and feeling (rather than unlimited use), Plaintiff cannot do the hand packer job because the Dictionary of Occupational Titles states that the hand packer job requires “constant” handling, grasping and feeling. Doc. 9 at 14. Thus, Plaintiff's issue appears to be a dispute between the meaning of “frequent” and the meaning of “constant.”

         At the hearing, the ALJ specifically asked the vocational expert whether someone with Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (which included frequent use of his upper extremities) could perform any jobs. Doc. 8-3 at 21-22. The vocational expert testified that Plaintiff could perform the job of hand packer. Doc. 8-3 at 22. Relying on this expert testimony, the Court concludes that someone who can “frequently” use his upper extremities can constantly handle, grasp and feel. Accordingly, the Court finds the ALJ did not commit error with respect to the finding that Plaintiff could perform the job of hand packer.

         B. Linen Room Attendant

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ's finding that Plaintiff could perform the job of linen room attendant was error for two reasons. First, Plaintiff argues that because the ALJ found that Plaintiff should avoid exposure to gas, dust and fumes, (Doc. 8-3 at 17), Plaintiff cannot be a linen room attendant. Doc. 9 at 14. While Plaintiff concedes that the Dictionary of Occupational Titles does not list dust, gas or fumes as a linen room attendant job hazard (id); Plaintiff nonetheless argues, “laundry products and large amounts of linens would necessarily result in dust and fumes.” Id. Plaintiff cites nothing for this argument. Conversely, the vocational expert, even considering Plaintiff's limitation of not being exposed to gas, dust or fumes, testified that Plaintiff could perform this job. Doc. 8-3 at 21-22. And, as Plaintiff concedes, this testimony is consistent with the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. On this record, there is no basis to conclude Plaintiff cannot do this job. Accordingly, the ALJ did not commit error.

         Second, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ committed error in concluding Plaintiff could be a linen room attendant because the job is too difficult. Doc. 9 at 14. Specifically, Plaintiff lists the components of the job from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, including segregating, counting and recording the number of linens and uniforms for laundry and mending, conducting monthly and yearly inventories, and maybe some mending. Id. Plaintiff notes that the ALJ found that Plaintiff was limited to performing simple tasks. Doc. 8-3 at 17. Plaintiff then concludes, “Conducting inventories and mending clothes are not simple tasks.” Plaintiff cites nothing for this conclusion. Conversely, the vocational expert, who was informed of Plaintiff's limitations, including performing only simply tasks, testified that Plaintiff could perform this job. Based on this expert testimony, the Court finds the ALJ did not commit error in concluding that Plaintiff could perform this job.

         C. Dishwasher/Kitchen Helper

         Plaintiff argues two reasons why the ALJ erred in concluding that Plaintiff could perform the job of dishwasher. First, Plaintiff argues that, per the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, the job requires “constant” handling and reaching, but Plaintiff is limited to frequent use of his upper extremities for fine and gross manipulation and feeling. Doc. 9 at 14. As discussed above with respect to the hand packer job, the vocational expert testified that Plaintiff could perform the dishwasher job with his limitations. Relying on this expert opinion, the Court finds the ALJ did not err in concluding Plaintiff could perform this job.

         Second, while Plaintiff concedes that the Dictionary of Occupational Titles does not list dust, fumes or gas as a hazard of being a dishwasher, it does list weather, cold, heat, wetness, humidity, atmospheric conditions and other environmental conditions. Doc. 9 at 14. Plaintiff argues, without citation, that the humidity and other atmospheric conditions of being a dishwasher would prevent him from doing the job. Id. Again, the vocational expert was aware of Plaintiff's limitations and concluded Plaintiff could perform this job. Given this expert testimony, the ALJ did not err in finding Plaintiff could be a dishwasher.

         D. Conclusion Regarding Available Jobs

         In sum, Plaintiff does not argue that the ALJ incorrectly identified Plaintiff's limitations. Instead, Plaintiff argues that the vocational expert mistakenly concluded that, even with these limitations, Plaintiff could perform the jobs identified in the ALJ's decision. On this record, this Court cannot overturn this expert testimony. Accordingly, the Court finds the ALJ did not commit error in accepting the testimony of the vocational expert after correctly identifying Plaintiff's residual functional capacity.

         II. Severity of Plaintiff's Conditions

         Next, Plaintiff takes issue with the level of severity the ALJ attributed to Plaintiff's conditions. Plaintiff appears to take issue with the ALJ's assessment of his knee, wrist, and urinary issues. Doc. 11 at 3-4.

         A. Knees

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff had condracalcinois and degenerative arthritis in both knees. Doc. 8-3 at 14. The ALJ found this condition to be severe. Id. The ALJ imposed limitations on Plaintiff's ability to work based on this severe condition, including standing 6 out of 8 hours, sitting 6 ...


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