United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Eastern Division, Ashland
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DANNY C. REEVES, District Judge.
This matter is pending for consideration of cross-motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff Genie Ranae Quesinberry ("Quesinberry" or "the Claimant") and Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner"). [Record Nos. 13, 15] Quesinberry argues that the administrative law judge ("ALJ") assigned to her case erred in considering the evidence of her impairments, by discounting her credibility, and by relying on an improper hypothetical in determining that she could perform work in the national economy. Quesinberry seeks reversal of the ALJ's decision and an award of benefits. Alternatively, she requests remand for further consideration of her claims. However, the Commissioner contends that the ALJ's decision was proper and should be affirmed. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant the Commissioner's motion and deny the relief sought by Quesinberry.
On October 20, 2010, Quesinberry applied for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Act. [ See Administrative Transcript, p.10; hereafter "Tr."] She alleges a disability beginning July 17, 2009. [Tr., p. 194] Quesinberry's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. [Tr., p. 46] On September 1, 2011, a hearing was held before ALJ Jerry Meade in Huntington, West Virginia. [ Id. ] Quesinberry appeared and testified, represented by Pamela Hofer, a non-attorney representative. [ Id. ] Impartial vocational expert ("VE") Leah Salyers also testified at the hearing. [ Id. ]
Quesinberry was twenty-four years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. She has an eleventh grade education, and has past work experience in a tobacco warehouse and as a cashier. [Tr., p. 68, 322] She claims to be disabled under the Act due to obesity, anxiety, and depression. [Tr., pp. 197-203, 213-221, 234-238] After reviewing the record and testimony presented during the administrative hearing, the ALJ concluded that Quesinberry suffered from the severe impairments of obesity, major depressive disorder, panic disorder with agoraphobia, and generalized anxiety disorder. [Tr., p. 48] Notwithstanding those impairments, the ALJ determined that Quesinberry maintained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform medium, light, and sedentary work, with the additional limitations that:
[Quesinberry] can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She has a moderate limitation in her ability to maintain attention and concentration for extended periods; perform activities within a schedule; maintain regular attendance and be punctual within customary tolerances; interact appropriately with the general public; and respond appropriately to changes in the work setting.
[Tr., p. 51]
In addition, the ALJ found that:
[Quesinberry] is able to remember and understand simple and detailed instructions; sustain attention and concentration for two-hour segments at a time; tolerate contact with coworkers and supervisors in a nonpublic setting; and adapt to changes as needed.
[Tr., p. 51]
Based on the testimony of VE Salyers, the ALJ determined that Quesinberry could not perform past relevant work. [Tr., p. 54] However, after considering the Claimant's age, education, work experience, and RFC, he found that she could perform other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy, such as laundry worker, product packager, office cleaner, clerical positions, machine monitor, and product inspector. [Tr., p. 55] Based on this finding, the ALJ concluded that Quesinberry was not disabled. As a result of the ALJ's assessment, Quesinberry was denied SSI benefits. [Tr., pp. 55, 56]
Under the Social Security Act, a "disability" is defined as "the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity' because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment of at least one year's expected duration." Cruse v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 502 F.3d 532, 539 (6th Cir. 2007). A claimant's Social Security disability determination is made by an ALJ in accordance with "a five-step sequential evaluation process.'" Combs v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 459 F.3d 640, 642 (6th Cir. 2006) (en banc) (quoting 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)). If the claimant satisfies the first four steps of the process, the burden shifts to the Commissioner with respect to the fifth step. See Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003).
First, the claimant must demonstrate that she is not engaged in substantial gainful employment at the time of the disability application. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(b). Second, the claimant must show that she suffers from a severe impairment or combination of impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c). Third, if the claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful employment and has a severe impairment which is expected to last for at least twelve months and which meets or equals a listed impairment, she will be considered disabled without regard to age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(d). Fourth, if the Commissioner cannot make a determination of disability based on medical evaluations and current work activity and the claimant has a severe ...