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Reed v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland

February 6, 2014

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


DAVID L. BUNNING, District Judge.

Plaintiff brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g) to obtain judicial review of an administrative decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. The Court, having reviewed the record, will affirm the Commissioner's decision, as it is supported by substantial evidence.


Plaintiff Margaret Reed filed her current application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, alleging disability as of February 15, 2006. (Tr.170-73). Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. 110-11). On August 17, 2011, Administrative Law Judge Jerry Meade conducted an administrative hearing at Plaintiff's request. (Tr. 132-35). On October 27, 2011, ALJ Meade ruled that Plaintiff was not entitled to benefits. (Tr. 76-92). This decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied review on January 8, 2013. (Tr. 65-70).

On February 24, 2013, Plaintiff filed the instant action. (Doc. # 1). This matter has culminated in cross motions for summary judgment, which are now ripe for review. (Docs. # 14 and 15).


A. Overview of the Process

Judicial review of the Commissioner's decision is restricted to determining whether it is supported by substantial evidence and was made pursuant to proper legal standards. See Cutlip v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994). "Substantial evidence" is defined as "more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. Courts are not to conduct a de novo review, resolve conflicts in the evidence, or make credibility determinations. See id. Rather, we are to affirm the Commissioner's decision, provided it is supported by substantial evidence, even if we might have decided the case differently. See Her v. Comm'r of Social Security, 203 F.3d 388, 389-90 (6th Cir. 1999).

The ALJ, in determining disability, conducts a five-step analysis. Step 1 considers whether the claimant is still performing substantial gainful activity; Step 2, whether any of the claimant's impairments are "severe"; Step 3, whether the impairments meet or equal a listing in the Listing of Impairments; Step 4, whether the claimant can still perform his past relevant work; and Step 5, whether significant numbers of other jobs exist in the national economy which the claimant can perform. As to the last step, the burden of proof shifts from the claimant to the Commissioner. See Jones v. Comm'r of Social Security, 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003); Preslar v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994).

B. The ALJ's Determination

At Step 1, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. (Tr. 81). At Step 2, the ALJ found Plaintiff's osteoarthritis, decreased visual acuity, panic disorder with agoraphobia, unspecified depressive disorder and personality disorder to be severe impairments within the meaning of the regulations. ( Id. ).

At Step 3, the ALJ found that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments listed in, or medically equal to, an impairment listed in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 82). In doing so, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's osteoarthritis does not meet the requirements of Listing 1.02 (major dysfunction of a joint) because the treating and examining physician's reports do not reflect ambulatory deficits. ( Id. ). The ALJ also found that Plaintiff's vision is better than that required by Listing 2.02 (visual acuity). ( Id. ). Although the ALJ recognized that Plaintiff suffers from depression, anxiety, agoraphobia and dependent personality disorder, he ultimately determined that Plaintiff did not meet the requirements of Listing 12.04 (affective disorders), 12.06 (anxiety related disorders) or 12.08 (personality disorders). (Tr. 83). In making this determination, the ALJ noted that Plaintiff manages many activities associated with daily living, interacts appropriately with family members and medical staff and has no history of decompensation in work or work-like settings. ( Id. )

At Step 4, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform medium work, except that:

[S]he can only occasionally climb ladders, ropes and scaffolds; she must avoid concentrated exposure to irritants such as fumes, odors, dusts and gases in poorly ventilated areas; and she must be able to wear corrective lenses at all times. She is able to understand, remember, and carry out instructions toward performance of simple repetitive tasks. She has a moderately limited ability to carry out the stress and pressures of day-to-day employment and to respond appropriately to coworkers and supervisors in a work ...

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