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Boggs v. Colvin

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

March 26, 2014

JAMES RICKIE BOGGS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

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.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff James Rickie Boggs filed his current application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) payments, alleging disability as of October 20, 2009. (Tr. 160-70). Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. 115-25). On April 9, 2012, Administrative Law Judge Maria Hodges held an administrative hearing at Plaintiff's request. (Tr. 28-79). On April 26, 2012, ALJ Hodges ruled that Plaintiff was not entitled to benefits. (Tr. 9-27). This decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied review on July 8, 2013. (Tr. 1-6).

On August 8, 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. #12 and 15).

II. DISCUSSION

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. Sec'y 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 Soc. Sec., 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 Soc. Sec., 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. 14). At Step 2, the ALJ found Plaintiff's degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, obesity, adjustment disorder and carpal tunnel syndrome 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. 15). Before reaching this conclusion, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's degenerative disc disease did not meet the requirements of Listing 1.04 (disorders of the spine) because he did not suffer from compromise of a nerve root, spinal arachnoiditis, or spinal stenosis with psuedoclaudication resulting in ineffective ambulation. ( Id. ). The ALJ further found that Plaintiff did not meet the requirements of Listing 12.04 (affective disorders) because he manages many activities associated with daily living, interacts appropriately with family members 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 a reduced range of medium work, with the following limitations:

The claimant [] should have a sit-stand option at one-hour intervals. He can climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds up to an occasional basis, and he can stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl up to a frequent basis. Fine finger manipulation with the right upper extremity is limited to no more than a frequent basis. He is limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks, in a lowstress work ...

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