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Vanover v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky

July 23, 2014

DARLENE VANOVER, Plaintiff.
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

SOUTHERN DIVISION AT LONDON PLAINTIFF 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 AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Darlene Vanover filed her application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on October 20, 2005, alleging a disability onset date of October 18, 2005. (Tr. 103). She claimed she was no longer able to perform substantial gainful activity due to disabling back pain, dizziness, and depression. Plaintiff's claim was denied initially (Tr. 113), and again on reconsideration (Tr. 118). At Plaintiff's request, an ALJ held a hearing on October 10, 2007, and thereafter denied her claim. (Tr. 92-98). The Appeals Council, however, vacated the ALJ's decision and remanded Plaintiff's claim for further findings and clarifications.

The ALJ held another hearing on November 22, 2011, and again denied her claim. (Tr. 47-58). Plaintiff appealed that decision to the Appeals Council, which denied her request for review in March 2013. (Tr. 8-12). This appeal followed.

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 October 20, 2005, the application date. (Tr. 52). At Step 2, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's back pain and affective mood disorder were 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. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 53).

At Step 4, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform "a range of light work, " with the following limitations:

[Plaintiff] can lift up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds more frequently; stand and/or walk six hours total out of eight; and sit six hours total out of eight. There are no limitations on pushing or pulling and she can frequently climb, balance, stoop, crouch, kneel and crawl but is limited on vibration and overhead reaching with the upper right extremity to frequently. There are no limitations in her ability to understand, remember and carry out simple instructions or make judgments on simple work-related decisions. She has mild limitations... in ability to understand, remember and carry out complex job instructions; make judgments on complex work-related decisions; or to interact appropriately with ...

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