United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
H. BRENT BRENNENSTUHl, Magistrate Judge.
Before the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Carson Godbey (APlaintiff@) seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both the Plaintiff (DN 17) and Defendant (DN 19) have filed a Fact and Law Summary.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, the parties have consented to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge conducting all further proceedings in this case, including issuance of a memorandum opinion and entry of judgment, with direct review by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in the event an appeal is filed (DN 11). By Order entered January 24, 2014 (DN 12), the parties were notified that oral arguments would not be held unless a written request therefor was filed and granted. No such request was filed.
FINDINGS OF FACT
Plaintiff filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income payments on June 16, 2011 (Tr. 11, 171-174, 175-180). Plaintiff alleged that he became disabled on October 31, 2010, as a result of a neck injury (Tr. 11, 171, 175, 201).
Administrative Law Judge Don C. Paris (AALJ@) evaluated this adult disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr. 87-91). Notably, the ALJ did not conduct an administrative hearing because he concluded the evidence in the record supported a fully favorable decision (Tr. 87). At the first step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 31, 2010, the alleged onset date (Tr. 89). At the second step, the ALJ found Plaintiff's degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine with polyradiculopathy constituted a severe impairment (Tr. 89). At the third step, the ALJ concluded 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 Appendix 1 (Tr. 89). At the fourth step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform less than eight hours of work per day (Tr. 90). The ALJ explained the evidence in the record shows Plaintiff "is unable to perform sustained work activities in an ordinary work setting on a regular and continuing basis due to his severe impairments" (Tr. 90). Therefore, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work (Tr. 90). At the fifth step, the ALJ noted if Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of sedentary work then a finding of disabled would be directed by Medical-Vocational Rule 201.14 in Appendix 2 (Tr. 90-91). Essentially, the ALJ found Plaintiff has been disabled from October 31, 2010, through the date of his decision because he lacks the residual functional capacity to perform even sedentary work (Tr. 90-91).
On December 9, 2011, the Appeals Council reviewed the ALJ's decision and concluded it was not supported by substantial evidence (Tr. 116). Therefore, the Appeals Council set aside the ALJ's favorable decision and sent the case back to the ALJ with instructions to conduct further proceedings and issue a new decision (Tr. 116-120). On December 21, 2011, Plaintiff filed a second application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DN 181-182).
On January 10, 2013, the ALJ conducted a video hearing from Lexington, Kentucky (Tr. 24-26). Plaintiff appeared in Campbellsville, Kentucky, and was represented by attorney M. Gail Wilson (Tr. 24-26). Also testifying during the hearing was Betty Hale, a vocational expert (Tr. 24-26).
In a decision dated January 31, 2013, the ALJ evaluated this adult disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr. 11-19). At the first step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 31, 2010, the alleged onset date (Tr. 13). At the second step, the ALJ determined Plaintiff's degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine status post anterior cervical discectomy and fusion at C6-7 are Asevere@ impairments within the meaning of the regulations (Tr. 13). At the third step, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in Appendix 1 (Tr. 15).
At the fourth step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform a range of light work because he can occasionally lift and carry 20 pounds and frequently lift and carry 10 pounds; he can stand or walk six hours during an eight-hour workday; he can sit six hours during an eight-hour workday; he can no more than frequently push and/or pull or operate hand controls with the left arm or hand; he can no more than frequently climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; he can perform no more than frequent overhead reaching with left arm or hand (due to status post cervical discectomy); and no more than frequently bend, stoop, crouch, and crawl (Tr. 15). Relying on testimony from the vocational expert, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable to perform any of his past relevant work (Tr. 17).
The ALJ proceeded to the fifth step where he considered Plaintiff's residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience as well as testimony from the vocational expert (Tr. 17-19). The ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of performing a significant number of jobs that exist in the national economy (Tr. 17-19). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a Adisability, @ as defined in the Social Security Act, from October 31, 2010, through the date of the decision, January 31, 2013 (Tr. 19).
Plaintiff timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision (Tr. 7). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-4, 5, 6).
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
The Social Security Act authorizes payment of Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income to persons with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. 401 et seq. (Title II Disability Insurance Benefits), 1381 et seq. (Title XVI Supplemental Security Income). The term Adisability@ is defined as an
[i]nability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve (12) months.
42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A) (Title II), 1382c(a)(3)(A) (Title XVI); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505(a), 416.905(a); Barnhart v. Walton , 535 U.S. 212, 214 (2002); Abbott v. ...