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Reed v. Colvin

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

January 7, 2014

GLEN REED II, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

EDWARD B. ATKINS, Magistrate Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Glen Reed, II, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to challenge the Defendant Commissioner's final decision denying Plaintiff's applications for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits (DIB) as well as for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This matter has been referred to the undersigned for preparation of a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(B). [Record No. 8]. Now ripe for decision on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, and for the reasons set forth herein, it is recommended that the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [Record No. 6] be denied, the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Record No. 7] be granted, and that Judgment be entered affirming the final decision of the Commissioner.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On April 29, 2010, the Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits, and on April 30, 2013 he filed an application for supplemental security income benefits. [Tr. 179-184]. In both applications, the Plaintiff alleged disability since January 9, 2009. Id . In his Disability Report, Form SSA-3368, the Plaintiff claimed his work ability was limited due to screws in his right foot, trouble walking, obesity, nervousness, pain and swelling in his feet and legs, back pain, depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and deep vein thrombosis. [Tr. 230]. His claim was denied initially [Tr. 114-117], and on reconsideration [Tr. 120-122]. After denial of his claims, Plaintiff requested a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). [Tr. 126-127].

On January 27, 2012, a video hearing was held before ALJ Jerry Meade. [Tr. 39-54]. The Plaintiff testified at the hearing, and was represented by David Hicks. [Tr. 39-54]. The ALJ also heard testimony from a vocational expert, Dwight McMillion. [Tr. 39-54]. ALJ Meade denied Plaintiff's claim for benefits in a written decision dated February 27, 2012. [Tr. 16-35]. In evaluating Plaintiff's claim, the ALJ applied the five-step sequential evaluation process to determine that he was not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520; 416.920. At the first step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the date of his application for benefits. [Tr. 22]. Next, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: mild degenerative changes of the lumbar spine; a history of a post surgical right foot fracture; a post surgical right knee medial meniscus tear; obesity; major depressive disorder; and generalized anxiety disorder. [Tr. 22]. At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's medically determinable impairments did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. [Tr. 22-24].

Before proceeding to the fourth step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments left him with the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a limited range of light work as defined by the Regulations. [Tr. 25]. Specifically, with respect to his physical limitations, the ALJ described Plaintiff's residual functional capacity as follows:

Claimant can do light and sedentary work that includes occasional pushing and pulling with the right lower extremity; occasional operation of foot controls with the right lower extremity; occasional kneeling and crouching; no climbing of ropes, ladders or scaffolds; no concentrated exposure to excessive vibration and hazards such as moving machinery and unprotected heights. The claimant can understand and remember detailed instruction and procedures requiring brief initial learning periods; can sustain concentration, effort and pace for detailed tasks requiring some independent judgment and involving minimal variation; can interact as needed with supervisors and peers for task completion, but no more than occasionally with the public; and can adapt adequately to situational conditions and changes.

[Tr. 25].

The fourth step of the analysis is to determine whether the Plaintiff's residual functional capacity would allow him to perform the requirements of his past relevant work. The Plaintiff's relevant employment experience is as a grounds keeper, pizza cook, machine operator/material handler, and counter attendant/cashier. [Tr. 29]. Based on the requirements of the Plaintiff's past relevant work, the ALJ found that he could not return to past relevant work. [Tr. 29].

At the fifth and final step, relying on the testimony of the Vocational Expert ("VE") and taking into consideration Plaintiff's age, educational background, past relevant work experience, and residual functional capacity, the ALJ must determine whether the Plaintiff is capable of making a successful adjustment to work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.159(a); 416.969(a). Based on the testimony of the Vocational Expert, the ALJ held that, "[c]onsidering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, the claimant is capable of making a successful adjustment to other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy...." [Tr. 30]. Based on these findings, the ALJ determined that the Plaintiff was not under a "disability" as defined by the Social Security Act. [Tr. 30].

Following the adverse decision of the ALJ, the Plaintiff properly exhausted his administrative remedies by appealing to the Social Security Appeals Council. [Tr. 1-7]. On appeal, the Appeals Council affirmed the ALJ's decision. [Tr. 1-7]. On June 6, 2013, Plaintiff initiated the present action by filing his Complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. [Record No. 1]. In his Motion for Summary Judgment, the Plaintiff argues for the reversal of the ALJ's decision based on a lack of substantial evidence. [Record No. 6]. The Commissioner responds that the ALJ's decision should be affirmed, as it is supported by substantial evidence. [Record No. 7]. Following briefing, this matter was referred to the undersigned for preparation of a Report and Recommendation. [Record No. 8].

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a reviewing court "must affirm the Commissioner's conclusions absent a determination that the Commissioner has failed to apply the correct legal standard or has made findings of fact unsupported by substantial evidence in the record." Longworth v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. , 402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted). The scope of judicial review is limited to the record itself, and the reviewing court "may not try the case de novo, nor resolve ...


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