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Adams v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky

June 26, 2014

DONALD DWAYNE ADAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

OPINION & ORDER

KAREN K. CALDWELL, District Judge.

The plaintiff, Donald D. Adams, 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

Adams filed his claim for benefits on September 14, 2009, alleging a disability beginning on July 9, 2007. His claim was denied initially on January 20, 2010, and upon reconsideration on February 22, 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 July 18, 2011.

At the time of the alleged onset of disability, Adams was 42 years old with a limited education. (AR 23). He claims to be disabled due to leg pain, a hip replacement, carpal tunnel and wrist pain, tremors, elbow pain, and anxiety. Adams is able to perform light household chores, has not sought treatment for carpal tunnel, and has worked consistently for most of his adult life despite his tremors. He has a driver's license and uses it when necessary.

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.

Id.

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 July 9, 2007, the alleged onset date. (AR 16). At step two, the ALJ determined that Adams suffers from the following severe impairments: right femur/hip fracture and anxiety disorder. In the third step, the ALJ found the claimant does not have an impairment or ...


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