United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, at Ashland
MONTANA L. PHIPPS PLAINTIFF
CAROLYN 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. § 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 Montana Phipps filed his application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) on July 19, 2010, alleging a disability onset date of January 1, 2009. (Tr. 206-213). Plaintiff's claims were denied initially (Tr. 132, 136), and again on reconsideration (Tr. 148, 151). On May 9, 2012, Administrative Law Judge Maria Hodges held a hearing at Plaintiff's request. (Tr. 31-65). On May 30, 212, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's claims for benefits. (Tr. 11-25). This decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied review on June 28, 2013. (Tr. 1-3).
Plaintiff filed the instant action on July 14, 2013. This action has culminated in cross-motions for summary judgment (Docs. # 10, 11), which are ripe for review.
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 January 1, 2009, the alleged onset date. (Tr. 16). At Step 2, the ALJ found Plaintiff's seizure disorder, headaches, decreased visual acuity on the right, thoracic and lumbar strains, and borderline intellectual functioning 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 that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Par 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 18-20).
At Step 4, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform less than a full range of light work, with the following limitations:
[Plaintiff] should never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. He should avoid concentrated exposure to vibration and all exposure to operational control of moving machinery and unprotected heights. He cannot perform commercial driving. His work is limited to one or two-step tasks with only occasional decision making and only occasional changes in ...