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Cole v. Colvin

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

May 20, 2014

JAMES LOVELL COLE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOSEPH M. HOOD, Senior District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon cross-motions for Summary Judgment [D.E. 11, 12] on Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner's denial of his applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income.[1] [Tr. 12-21]. The Court, having reviewed the record and being otherwise sufficiently advised, will deny Plaintiff's motion and grant Defendant's motion.

I. Overview of the Process and the Instant Matter

The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), in determining disability, conducts a five-step analysis:

1. An individual who is working and engaging in substantial gainful activity is not disabled, regardless of the claimant's medical condition.
2. An individual who is working but does not have a "severe" impairment which significantly limits his physical or mental ability to do basic work activities is not disabled.
3. If an individual is not working and has a severe impairment which "meets the duration requirement and is listed in appendix 1 or is equal to a listed impairment(s)", then he is disabled regardless of other factors.
4. If a decision cannot be reached based on current work activity and medical facts alone, and the claimant has a severe impairment, then the Secretary reviews the claimant's residual functional capacity and the physical and mental demands of the claimant's previous work. If the claimant is able to continue to do this previous work, then he is not disabled.
5. If the claimant cannot do any work he did in the past because of a severe impairment, then the Secretary considers his residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience to see if he can do other work. If he cannot, the claimant is disabled.

Preslar v. Sec'y of Health & Hum. Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 (1982)). "The burden of proof is on the claimant throughout the first four steps of this process to prove that he is disabled." Id. "If the analysis reaches the fifth step without a finding that the claimant is not disabled, the burden transfers to the Secretary." Id.

In the instant matter, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the relevant time period under step one. [Tr. 14]. Under step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's medically determinable impairments of degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, affective disorder, and borderline intellectual functioning were "severe" as defined by the agency's regulations. [Tr. 14]; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). The ALJ further found that Plaintiff's knee pain was a "non-severe" impairment. [Tr. 15].

During step three of the analysis, the ALJ considered all of Plaintiff's impairments and decided that none of them met the criteria listed in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404 subpt. P app. 1. [Tr. 15-16]. After further review of the record, the ALJ concluded at step four that Plaintiff had a residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work, but was limited to lifting and/or carrying 20 pounds occasionally, 10 pounds frequently; standing/walking or sitting six hours out of an eight hour workday; and unlimited pushing/pulling ability. [Tr. 16-19]. Plaintiff was additionally limited in that he could occasionally climb ramps/stairs, balance, stoop, crouch, kneel, or crawl but never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. [Tr. 17-19]. Plaintiff could never perform overhead reaching bilaterally, but could perform frequent reaching, front or lateral, bilaterally. [Tr. 17-19]. Any work performed by Plaintiff would have to consist of simple, routine tasks, with short, simple directions with only simple work-related decisions with few workplace changes. [Tr. 17-19]. Finally, Plaintiff could occasionally work with the general public, co-workers, and supervisors. [Tr. 17-19].

The ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to perform any of his past relevant work. [Tr. 19]. However, there were jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. [Tr. 20-21]. Thus, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff is not disabled under the Social Security Act. [Tr. 21].

Plaintiff appeals the decision of the ALJ arguing that the ALJ erred by classifying his knee pain as non-severe, that the ALJ erred by not finding that his stenosis of the lumbar spine did not meet a listed impairment, and that the ALJ ...


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