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Johnson v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, Pikeville

September 5, 2014

MELISSA PATRICIA JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

KAREN K. CALDWELL, Chief District Judge.

The plaintiff Melissa Patricia Johnson brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to obtain judicial review of an administrative decision denying her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits. The Court, having reviewed the record, will affirm the Commissioner's decision.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") denied Johnson's application for disability insurance benefits (Administrative Record ("AR") at 13) and Johnson 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 19, 2010, the alleged onset date. (AR at 15). At step two, the ALJ determined that Johnson suffers from the following severe impairments: right shoulder problems (arthritis in the AC joint, minimal tear of the supraspinatus tendon, and rotator cuff tendinitis with impingement), degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine; degenerative joint disease of the cervical spine, obesity, major depressive disorder, and anxiety. (AR at 15). 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 16).

The ALJ determined that Johnson has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform "light" work as defined by 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b) except that she can never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. (AR at 18.) The ALJ further determined:

She can occasionally climb ramps/stairs, stoop, crouch, or crawl. She can frequently reach with the right upper extremity, but can only occasionally reach overhead with the right upper extremity. She can frequently handle, finger and feel with the right, dominant extremity. She must avoid concentrated exposure to excessive vibration and irritants such as fumes, odors, dust, gases, and poorly ventilated areas. The claimant can understand, remember and carry out simple and detailed instructions. She can only work in a low-stress job (defined as a job that requires ...

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