United States District Court, D. Alaska
JEFFERY O. THOMAS, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
H. Russel Holland United States District Judge
This is an action for judicial review of the denial of disability benefits under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434, 1381-1383f. Plaintiff has timely filed his opening brief,  to which defendant has responded. Oral argument was not requested and is not deemed necessary.
Plaintiff is Jeffery O. Thomas. Defendant is Carolyn W. Colvin, acting Commissioner of Social Security.
On June 23, 2009, plaintiff filed applications for disability benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. Plaintiff alleged that he became disabled on July 1, 2005. Plaintiff alleged that he is disabled because of welder’s disease, magnesium poisoning, severe headaches, confusion, and vision problems. Plaintiff’s applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. After a hearing on December 8, 2010, an administrative law judge (ALJ) denied plaintiff’s claims. After the Appeals Council denied plaintiff’s request for review, plaintiff sought judicial review of the ALJ’s decision. On January 11, 2013, the court remanded the matter for further proceedings,  having determined that the ALJ had failed to fully develop the record as to a possible diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and that the ALJ had erred in finding plaintiff’s pain and symptom statements less than credible. Upon remand, the ALJ held a hearing on June 25, 2014. After the hearing, the ALJ again denied plaintiff’s claims. Thereafter, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff’s request for review, thus making the ALJ’s November 21, 2014 decision the final decision of the Commissioner. On March 19, 2015, plaintiff commenced this action in which he asks the court to find that he is entitled to disability benefits.
Plaintiff was born on August 8, 1969. He was 44 years old at the time of the hearing. Plaintiff has a high school education. Plaintiff’s past relevant work includes work as a handyman, welder, shop manager, and heavy equipment operator.
The ALJ’s Decision
The ALJ first determined that plaintiff met “the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through March 31, 2011.” The ALJ then applied the five-step sequential analysis used to determine whether an individual is disabled.
At step one, the ALJ found that plaintiff had “not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 1, 2005, the alleged onset date....”
At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff “had the following severe impairments: multiple sclerosis with cognitive disorder and history of optic neuritis of the right eye....”
At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff did “not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1....” The ALJ considered Listing 11.09 (multiple sclerosis), Listing 2.02 (loss of central visual acuity), Listing 2.03 (contraction of the visual fields in the better eye), Listing 2.04 (loss of visual efficiency), and Listing 12.02 (organic mental disorders). The ALJ considered the “paragraph B” criteria and concluded that plaintiff had mild restrictions in activities of daily living; moderate difficulties with regard to concentration, persistence, or pace; mild difficulties in social functioning; and no episodes of decompensation, which have been of extended duration. The ALJ also considered whether plaintiff met the “paragraph C” criteria and concluded that he did not.
“Between steps three and four, the ALJ must, as an intermediate step, assess the claimant’s RFC.” Bray v. Comm’r Soc. Sec. Admin., 554 F.3d 1219, 1222-23 (9th Cir. 2009). The ALJ found that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except the claimant is limited to occasional climbing of ramps or stairs; no climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasional balancing with a handheld assistive device; must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold; must avoid all exposure to irritants such as fumes, odors, dust, gases, and poorly ventilated areas; must avoid moderate exposure to operational control of moving machinery, unprotected heights, and hazardous machinery; limited to occupations requiring only occasional far acuity; work is limited to jobs where there is no ...