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Morgan v. Colvin

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

November 26, 2013

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security Defendant


JOSEPH M. HOOD, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon cross-motions for summary judgment [DE 10, 13] on Plaintiff's appeal, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), of the Commissioner's denial of her application for disability insurance benefits. The Court, having reviewed the record and the parties' motions, will deny Plaintiff's motion and grant Defendant's motion.


The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), conducts a five-step analysis to determine disability:

1. An individual who is working and engaging in substantial gainful activity is not disabled, regardless of the claimant's medical condition.
2. An individual who is working but does not have a "severe" impairment which significantly limits his physical or mental ability to do basic work activities is not disabled.
3. If an individual is not working and has a severe impairment which "meets the duration requirement and is listed in appendix 1 or is equal to a listed impairment(s)", then he is disabled regardless of other factors.
4. If a decision cannot be reached based on current work activity and medical facts alone, and the claimant has a severe impairment, then the Secretary reviews the claimant's residual functional capacity and the physical and mental demands of the claimant's previous work. If the claimant is able to continue to do this previous work, then he is not disabled.
5. If the claimant cannot do any work he did in the past because of a severe impairment, then the Secretary considers his residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience to see if he can do other work. If he cannot, the claimant is disabled.

Preslar v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 (1982)). "The burden of proof is on the claimant throughout the first four steps of this process to prove that he is disabled." Id. "If the analysis reaches the fifth step without a finding that the claimant is not disabled, the burden transfers to the Secretary." Id.

Plaintiff was forty-six years old on the alleged onset date. [Tr. 21]. She has a high school education and past work experience as a clerk at Wal-Mart. Id. Plaintiff filed a Title II application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits on June 5, 2009, alleging disability as of April 26, 2009 [Tr. 14]. The claim was denied initially on September 3, 2009, as well as upon reconsideration on December 10, 2009 [TR. 58-61, 65-67]. Plaintiff requested a hearing with the ALJ, which took place on May 17, 2011. [Tr. 26-48] The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision denying disability on June 17, 2011. [Tr. 14-22].

In the instant matter, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's claim using the five-step analysis. The ALJ first found that the Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. [Tr. 16]. Under the second step, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: polyneuropathy of the upper and lower extremities per EMG testing, chronic neck and low back pain secondary to degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine with disc bulges at multiple levels in the cervical spine and hypertrophic facet changes of the cervical and lumbar spine, bilateral SI joint sclerosis, and hypertension. [Tr. 16].

During step three of the analysis, the ALJ considered Plaintiff's impairments and decided that she did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets the criteria listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. [Tr. 19]. After careful consideration of the entire record, the ALJ found at step four that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a limited range of light and sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) but was unable to perform any past relevant work as a Wal-Mart clerk. In addition, the ALJ disregarded the opinion of Dr. James Chaney, Plaintiff's treating physician, that she is disabled. In step five, the ALJ considered Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, RFC, and the testimony of a vocational expert and determined that jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy which Plaintiff could perform, such as bench work, cashier or sales work, and/or clerical work. [Tr. 21-22]. As a result, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff is not disabled under the Social Security Act. [Tr. 22].

In evaluating the Plaintiff's claims, the ALJ had the benefit of the treatment records of Dr. Chaney, Plaintiff's treating physician, the report of Dr. Ballard Wright, who performed a consultative evaluation of Plaintiff at Dr. Chaney's request, the opinion of Christopher Rymond, a vocational expert, the internal medicine examination report of Dr. Barry Burchett, and a physical ...

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