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Brown v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

January 16, 2014

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Albert Burgess Brown, Jr., Plaintiff, Pro se, Bellevue, NE.

For Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant: Lynnett M. Wagner, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE - OMAHA, Omaha, NE.

For Office of General Counsel Social Security Administration, Interested Party: Office of General Counsel Social Security Administ, LEAD ATTORNEY, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION - KANSAS CITY, Kansas City, MO.


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LYLE E. STROM, Senior United States District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the motion of the plaintiff, Albert Brown (" Brown" ), to reopen his First Application because of Due Process and similar fault violations. Brown also appeals a final decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (" SSA" ) denying Brown's application for disability benefits. After review of the parties' respective positions, the Court makes the following findings. The Second Application decision of the Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" ) is supported by the substantial evidence on the record and the Court will dismiss the remainder of the claim.

There are two applications for Disability Insurance Benefits in this case: (1) an application dated October 5, 2006 (" First Application" ), and (2) an application dated August 17, 2009 (" Second Application" ). The Court will first address the merits of Brown's First Application claims. The Court will then proceed to address the merits of the Second Application claims.



Brown was a forty-one-year-old man at the beginning of the First Application

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( Brown v. Astrue (" Brown I " ), 4:08CV483, 2009 WL 88049, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 12, 2009)). He possessed a high school diploma and worked in computer installation, computer maintenance, and system analysis ( Id. ). While on those jobs, Brown lifted weights ranging from 25-100 pounds ( Id. ). Brown left his last job in December 2004 in preparation for another job that never came to fruition ( Id. ). Brown collected unemployment benefits from December 2004 [1] until August 2005 ( Id. ). Concurrent with the end of his unemployment benefits, Brown experienced a fall which injured his back ( Id. ). Brown received no medical treatment or medication for this or any other of his ailments, though he once visited a clinic but determined that the line was too long and left without undergoing an examination ( Id. ).

On October 5, 2006, Brown filed his First Application claiming disability based upon his back injury, obesity, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea ([WL] at *1-2). SSA provided Brown with a consultive medical evaluation with Dr. Elbert Cason on November 16, 2006 ([WL] at 3). Dr. Cason provided a thorough medical analysis of Brown and diagnosed Brown with low back pain with radiation down the right posterior thigh; unregulated high blood pressure; sleep apnea caused by morbid obesity; and morbid obesity ( Id. ). The ALJ in the First Application scheduled Brown for additional medical examination on February 18, 2008, but Brown informed the ALJ that he would not participate in further medical examinations ([WL] at 4).

Initially, SSA denied the First Application on December 8, 2006 [2] ([WL] at *1). The ALJ denied Brown's First Application on February 20, 2008. The Appeals Council, the District Court for Eastern District of Missouri, and the Eighth Circuit upheld the ALJ's decision ( Brown v. Astrue (" Brown II " ), 356 Fed.Appx. 906, 2009 WL 4825179 (8th Cir. 2009)).

Brown asserts one factual error in his First Application claim; he claims the signature of J.M. Boone (" Boone" ) on a residual functional capacity (" RFC" ) assessment form misled the ALJ into granting a higher deference to Boone's lay opinion. Boone signed the RFC assessment which she completed December 7, 2008. Boone signed her name in a signature box with the typeface " Medical Consultant's Signature." However, Boone is not a Medical Consultant as defined under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1616(b) and the SSA does not refute that fact in any of its briefs. Brown cites Dewey v. Astrue, for the proposition that the First Application's proceedings were harmful error based upon a non-Consultant signing the Medical Consultant's signature box.

In the case before this Court, Brown contends that the greater deference the ALJ purportedly awarded Boone's opinion violated his Due Process rights and constituted reversible error. SSA contends that the Court cannot review the First Application because of the doctrine of res judicata. The Court has reviewed the arguments and determines Brown's claims are unfounded and the ALJ's error, if any, was harmless.

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