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Coskery v. Berryhill

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

June 4, 2018

DARRYL C. COSKERY, Plaintiff, Appellant,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant, Appellee.

          APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MAINE [Hon. Nancy Torresen, U.S. District Judge]

          Riley L. Fenner for appellant.

          Christopher L. Potter, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, with whom Halsey B. Frank, United States Attorney, was on brief, for appellee.

          Before Lynch, Thompson, and Barron, Circuit Judges.

          BARRON, Circuit Judge.

         Darryl Coskery appeals the District Court's order upholding the denial of his application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. We affirm.

         I.

         Coskery, a former line cook and chef, filed his claim for benefits with the Social Security Administration (SSA) in September 2013. The SSA denied his request. Coskery sought a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), see 20 C.F.R. § 404.929, which was held on August 5, 2015.

         The key question before the ALJ was whether Coskery was disabled. See 42 U.S.C. § 423(a)(1). Congress defines "disabled, " as relevant here, as the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical . . . impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months[.]" Id. § 423(d)(1)(A).

         The SSA has promulgated a regulation that structures the inquiry that an ALJ must undertake to evaluate whether a claimant is "disabled" under the statute. The regulation sets forth a five-step inquiry:

(i) At the first step, we consider your work activity, if any. If you are doing substantial gainful activity, we will find that you are not disabled. . . .
(ii) At the second step, we consider the medical severity of your impairment(s). If you do not have a severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment . . . we will find that you are not disabled. . . .
(iii) At the third step, we also consider the medical severity of your impairment(s). If you have an impairment(s) that meets or equals one [set forth in an appended list] and meets the duration requirement, we will find that you are disabled . . . .
(iv) At the fourth step, we consider our assessment of your residual functional capacity and your past relevant work. If you can still do your past relevant work, we will find that you are not disabled. . . .
(v) At the fifth and last step, we consider our assessment of your residual functional capacity and your age, education, and work experience to see if you can make an adjustment to other work. If you can make an adjustment to other work, we will find that you are not disabled. If you cannot make an adjustment to other work, we will find that you are disabled.

20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v).

         The ALJ released a decision on August 24, 2015 that determined that Coskery's claim failed at the fifth step of the inquiry. The ALJ ruled that, although Coskery suffered from a medical impairment, he retained a "residual functional capacity to perform light work." According to a regulation promulgated by the SSA, light work requires an individual to "lift[] no more than 20 pounds at a time with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing ...


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