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Cartwright v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division

March 25, 2014

PEGGY ADDLIN CARTWRIGHT, Plaintiff.
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

H. BRENT BRENNENSTUHL, Magistrate Judge.

BACKGROUND

Before the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Peggy Addlin Cartwright ("Plaintiff") seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both the Plaintiff (DN 8) and Defendant (DN 11) have filed a Fact and Law Summary.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, the parties have consented to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge conducting all further proceedings in this case, including issuance of a memorandum opinion and entry of judgment, with direct review by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in the event an appeal is filed (DN 5). No party has requested oral argument.

FINDINGS OF FACT

Plaintiff filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income payments on May 25, 2010 (Tr. 149-153, 154-160). Plaintiff alleged that she became disabled on January 26, 2007, as a result of depression, anxiety, degenerative disc disease, and problems with her back, hip, and knee (Tr. 182). On February 6, 2012, Administrative Law Judge Michael Comisky ("ALJ") conducted a video hearing from Paducah, Kentucky (Tr. 20, 35-37). Plaintiff appeared in Madisonville, Kentucky, and was represented by attorney Stuart Peek (Tr. 20, 35-37). Also present and testifying was Kenneth Boaz, a vocational expert (Tr. 20, 35-37).

In a decision dated April 6, 2012, the ALJ found Plaintiff meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through June 30, 2012 (Tr. 22). The ALJ evaluated this adult disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr. 20-29). At the first step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 26, 2007, the alleged onset date (Tr. 22). At the second step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's discogenic disorder, joint disorder of the left shoulder, obesity, affective disorder, and anxiety disorder are "severe" impairments within the meaning of the regulations (Tr. 22). At the third step, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in Appendix 1 (Tr. 25).

At the fourth step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform medium work except that she can lift and carry 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently, stand and/or walk for two hours, and sit for six hours in an eight hour workday due to limitations from her joint problems and weight; she can understand/remember detailed instructions; can maintain concentration, persistence and pace to carry out detailed instructions; can have frequent contact with co-workers, the public and supervisors; and can adapt to workplace changes (Tr. 25-26). Relying on testimony from the vocational expert, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of performing her past relevant work as a statistics clerk and procurement clerk (Tr. 27-28).

In the alternative, the ALJ proceeded to the fifth step where he considered Plaintiff's residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience as well as testimony from the vocational expert (Tr. 28-29). The ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of performing a significant number of jobs that exist in the national economy (Tr. 28-29). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a "disability, " as defined in the Social Security Act, from January 26, 2007, through the date of the decision, April 6, 2012 (Tr. 29).

Plaintiff timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision (Tr. 14-16). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-5).

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

The Social Security Act authorizes payment of Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income to persons with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq. (Title II Disability Insurance Benefits), 1381 et seq. (Title XVI Supplemental Security Income). The term "disability" is defined as an

[i]nability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve (12) months.

42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A) (Title II), 1382c(a)(3)(A) (Title XVI); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505(a), 416.905(a); Barnhart v. Walton , 535 U.S. 212, 214 (2002); Abbott v. Sullivan , 905 F.2d 918, 923 (6th Cir. 1990).

The Commissioner has promulgated regulations setting forth a five-step sequential evaluation process for evaluating a disability claim. See "Evaluation of disability in general, " 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. In summary, the evaluation proceeds as follows:

1) Is the claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity?
2) Does the claimant have a medically determinable impairment or combination of impairments that satisfies the duration requirement and significantly limits his ...

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