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Choate v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

August 20, 2014

JAMES CHOATE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

KEREN K. CALDWELL, Chief District Judge.

The plaintiff James Choate brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to obtain judicial review of an administrative decision denying his claim for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. The Court, having reviewed the record, will affirm the Commissioner's decision.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") denied Choate's application for disability insurance benefits and for supplemental security income. (Administrative Record ("AR") at 166). Choate now asks this Court to review that decision. This Court's review of the Commissioner's decision is limited to determining whether it "is supported by substantial evidence and was made pursuant to proper legal standards." Rabbers v. Comm'r Soc. Sec., 582 F.3d 647, 651 (6th Cir.2009).

In determining whether a claimant has a compensable disability under the Social Security Act (the "Act"), the relevant 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, he is not disabled. If he is not engaged in such activity, then the ALJ must proceed to step two.
(2) If the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments is not "severe, " meaning the impairment(s) significantly limit his physical or mental ability to do basic work activities, he is not disabled. If the claimant's impairments are severe, then the ALJ must proceed to step three.
(3) If the claimant has a severe impairment or combination of impairments that meets or equal(s) in severity an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the Listing of Impairments), he is disabled. If not, then the ALJ must proceed to step four.
(4) If the claimant's impairment does not prevent him from doing past relevant work, he is not disabled. If it does, then the ALJ must proceed to step five.
(5) If other work exists in the national economy that accommodates the claimant's residual functional capacity and vocational factors (age, education, skills, etc.), he is not disabled.

Id.

In this case, the ALJ began his analysis at step one by determining that the claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 15, 2010, the alleged onset date. (AR at 16). At step two, the ALJ determined that Choate suffers from the following severe impairments: bilateral AC degenerative joint disease; bilateral impingement syndrome; and hypertension. (AR at 16). At step three, 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 at 19).

The ALJ determined that Choate has the residual functional capacity to perform "medium" work as defined by 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c). The ALJ further determined that Choate could frequently perform reaching overhead bilaterally and reach ...


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