United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville
THOMAS B. RUSSELL, Senior District Judge.
Plaintiff, Tammy Bowling, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g), seeking judicial review of an administrative decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, who denied her application for supplemental security income and disability insurance benefits. At issue is whether the ALJ erred when determining that Ms. Bowling retains the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work with certain restrictions due to her physical and psychological impairments. Ms. Bowling asserts that the Administrative Law Judge failed to afford appropriate weight to the opinion of her treating physician and improperly discounted her subjective assessment of her pain and degree of psychological impairment. After reviewing the the administrative record, the Court will affirm the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security.
Ms. Bowling filed her application for benefits on March 17, 2010,  alleging that she became disabled on October 2, 2005. In her application, Ms. Bowling stated that she was currently unable to work, and initially had stopped working, due to panic attacks, depression and bipolar disorder. Her requests for benefits were denied initially and on review, so she timely requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ").
Ms. Bowling's hearing took place on February 3, 2011. She was represented by counsel at the hearing and testified, as did a vocational expert retained by the Social Security Administration. On March 31, 2011, the ALJ entered an opinion that Ms. Bowling was not disabled because she has the residual functional capacity to perform certain types of sedentary work.
Ms. Bowling timely appealed at both the administrative level and to this Court.
A district court may not try a Social Security appeal de novo, or resolve conflicts in evidence, or decide questions of credibility. See, e.g., Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir.1984). Rather, the Court must affirm the conclusions of the Commissioner of Social Security absent a determination that the ALJ who made the determination regarding Ms. Bowling's entitlement to benefits failed to apply the correct legal standards or made findings of fact unsupported by substantial evidence in the record. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also Jordan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 548 F.3d 417, 422 (6th Cir. 2008). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Jordan, 548 F.3d at 422 (citing Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)).
With respect to the correct legal standards, ALJs must perform a five-step analysis to determine whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act:
1. If the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, she is not disabled.
2. If the claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful activity, but her impairment is not "severe, " she is not disabled.
3. If the claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful activity and is suffering from a "severe" impairment that has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months, and her impairment meets or equals a listed impairment, the claimant is presumed disabled without further inquiry.
4. Otherwise, if the claimant's impairment does not prevent her from doing her past relevant work, she is not disabled.
5. Even if the claimant's impairment does prevent her from doing her past relevant work, if other work exists in the national economy that accommodates her residual functional capacity and vocational factors ...