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Cody v. Colvin

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

August 25, 2014

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


DANNY C. REEVES, District Judge.

This matter is pending for consideration of cross-motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff Raymond Anthony Cody ("Cody" or "the Claimant") and Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner"). [Record Nos. 11, 14] For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant the Commissioner's motion and deny the relief requested by Cody.


On October 20, 2010, Cody protectively filed an application for Supplemental Security Insurance ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("Act").[1] [Administrative Transcript, "Tr., " at pp. 12, 136-144, 157] He alleged a disability beginning January 30, 2006. Cody claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Cody, along with his attorney Holly A. Daugherty, and vocational expert ("VE") Bruce S. Growick appeared before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Dwight D. Wilkerson on May 7, 2012, for an administrative hearing. In a decision dated June 7, 2012, ALJ Wilkerson found that Cody was not disabled under section 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Act. [Tr., pp. 12-23]

Cody was twenty-two years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. [Tr., p. 30] He has an eleventh grade education and no past relevant work experience. [Tr., pp. 21, 38-39, 60-61, 161] Cody alleges disability due to short-term memory loss and Attention Deficit Disorder. [Tr., pp. 50-51, 161] He also testified that he experienced depression, migraine headaches, and left lower extremity pain. [Tr., pp. 14-15, 36-37, 40-42, 55-56] After reviewing the record and considering the testimony presented during the administrative hearing, the ALJ concluded that Cody suffers from the severe impairments of bipolar type II disorder, borderline intellectual functioning, attention deficit hyper activity disorder ("ADHD"), and anxiety disorder not otherwise specified. [Tr., p. 14-15]

Notwithstanding the impairments listed above, ALJ Wilkerson found that Cody retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, subject to the following limitations:

Plaintiff is able to understand and remember simple instructions and procedures; requires a brief initial learning period at any potential job; is able to sustain attention, concentration, effort and pace for simple tasks requiring little independent judgment and involving minimal variations; is able to interact frequently and, as needed, with supervisors and peers sufficiently for task completion; should not be required to interact more than occasionally with the public; is able to adapt adequately to situational conditions and changes with reasonable support and structure; is functionally illiterate and will be off-task no more than 10% of the time.

[Tr., p. 18]

Based on the VE's testimony, and after considering Cody's age, education, and work experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined that Cody could perform other jobs that exist in the national economy such as bench assembler, quality assurance inspector, and machine tender. [Tr., pp. 21-22] And based on his finding that Cody could perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy, the ALJ concluded that Cody was not disabled. As a result, Cody was denied SSI. [Tr., p. 22]


Under the Social Security Act, a "disability" is defined as "the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity' because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment of at least one year's expected duration." Cruse v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 502 F.3d 532, 539 (6th Cir. 2007). A claimant's Social Security disability determination is made by an ALJ in accordance with "a five-step sequential evaluation process.'" Combs v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 459 F.3d 640, 642 (6th Cir. 2006) (en banc) (quoting 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)). If the claimant satisfies the first four steps of the process, the burden shifts to the Commissioner with respect to the fifth step. See Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003).

A claimant must first demonstrate that he is not engaged in substantial gainful employment at the time of the disability application. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(b). Second, the claimant must show that he suffers from a severe impairment or combination of impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c). Third, if the claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful employment and has a severe impairment which is expected to last for at least twelve months and which meets or equals a listed impairment, he will be considered disabled without regard to age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(d). Fourth, if the Commissioner cannot make a determination of disability based on medical evaluations and current work activity and the claimant has a severe impairment, the Commissioner will then review the claimant's RFC and relevant past work to determine whether he can perform his past work. If he can, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(f).

Under the fifth step of the analysis, if the claimant's impairment prevents him from doing past work, the Commissioner will consider his RFC, age, education, and past work experience to determine whether he can perform other work. If he cannot perform other work, the Commissioner will find the claimant disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g), 416.920(g). The Commissioner has the burden of proof only on "the fifth step, proving that there is work available in the economy that the claimant can perform.'" White v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 312 F.Appx. 779, 785 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Her v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 203 F.3d 388, 391 (6th Cir. 1999)).

Judicial review of the denial of a claim for Social Security benefits is limited to determining whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the correct legal standards were applied. Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007). The substantial-evidence standard presupposes that there is a zone of choice within which decision makers can go either way, without interference from the court. McClanahan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 474 F.3d 830, 833 (6th Cir. 2006). Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as sufficient to support the conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007).

If supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's decision must be affirmed even if the Court would decide the case differently and even if the claimant's position is also supported by substantial evidence. Smith v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 482 F.3d 873, 876 (6th Cir. 2007); Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007); Longworth v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005); Casey v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 987 F.2d 1230, 1233 (6th Cir. ...

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