United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
OPINION & ORDER
KAREN K. CALDWELL, Chief District Judge.
The plaintiff, Ronald Lee Mynhier, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to obtain judicial review of an administrative decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his claim for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits. The Court, having reviewed the record, will affirm the Commissioner's decision, as it is supported by substantial evidence.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Mynhier filed his claim for benefits on December 14, 2009, alleging a disability beginning December 1, 2007. His claim was denied initially on June 8, 2010, and again upon reconsideration on August 31, 2010. He then filed a written request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). After the hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on November 21, 2011.
At the time of the alleged onset of disability, Mynhier was 47 seven years old and has a ninth-grade education. (AR 271). He claims to be totally disabled due to epilepsy and herniated discs in his spine. (AR 270). In the past Mynhier worked as a laborer for a mowing company and on a farm. (AR 272). He complains suffering from three to four seizures a month due to his epilepsy (AR 42) and experiences constant back and neck pain as a result of a work-related accident (AR 43-44). Myhnier is able to perform tasks related to personal care, including preparing food, shopping for groceries, doing laundry, vacuuming, and visiting family. (AR 295-98).
In determining whether a claimant has a compensable disability under the Social Security Act (the "Act"), the regulations provide a five-step sequential process which the ALJ must follow. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)-(e); see Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 529 (6th Cir. 1997). The five steps, in summary, are as follows:
(1) If the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity, she is not disabled.
(2) If the claimant is not doing substantial gainful activity, her impairment must be severe before she can be found disabled.
(3) If the claimant is not doing 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 his impairment meets or equals a listed impairment, the claimant is presumed disabled without further inquiry.
(4) If the claimant's impairment does not prevent her from doing past relevant work, she is not disabled.
(5) Even if the claimant's impairment does prevent her from doing past relevant work, if other work exists in the national economy that accommodates her residual functional capacity and vocational factors (age, education, skills, etc.), she is not disabled.
The burden of proof is on the claimant through the first four steps of the process to prove that she is disabled. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146, n. 5 (1987). If the ALJ reaches the fifth step without finding that the claimant is not disabled, then the burden shifts to the Commissioner to consider the claimant's residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience to determine if she could perform other work. If not, she would be deemed disabled. 20 C.F.R. 404.1520(f). Importantly, the Commissioner only has the burden of proof on "the fifth step, proving that there is work available in the economy that the claimant can perform." Her v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 203 F.3d 388, 391 (6th Cir. 1999).
In this case, the ALJ began his analysis at step one by determining that the claimant has not engaged in gainful activity since December 14, 2009, the application date. (AR 13). At step two, the ALJ determined that Mynhier suffers from the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease and a seizure disorder. (AR 13). In the third step, the ALJ found the claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments. (AR 14). Specifically, the ALJ considered whether Mynhier met the ...