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Head v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division

September 12, 2014

MICHELLE HEAD Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

H. BRENT BRENNENSTUHL, Magistrate Judge.

BACKGROUND

Before the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Michelle Head ("Plaintiff") 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 18) 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 12). By Order entered March 4, 2014 (DN 13), 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 an application for Period of Disability, Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income payments on March 15, 2011 (Tr. 184, 194). Plaintiff alleges that she became disabled on June 14, 2010 as a result of thyroid issues, back pain, seizures, and migraines (Tr. 237). Administrative Law Judge Kathleen M. Thomas ("ALJ") conducted a video hearing from Paducah, Kentucky on June 14, 2012 (Tr. 12, 33). Plaintiff and her attorney, Bradley Rhoads, attended the hearing in Owensboro, Kentucky (Tr. 12, 31). Also present and testifying was William Harpool, an impartial vocational expert (Tr. 31-61).

In a decision dated August 7, 2012, the ALJ evaluated this adult disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr. 12-25). At the first step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 14, 2010, the alleged onset date (Tr. 14). At the second step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following "severe" impairments within the meaning of the regulations: multiple sclerosis, degenerative disc disease, hypothyroidism, migraine headaches, and an affective disorder (Tr. 15). 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 less than a full range of medium work (Tr. 16). More specifically, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's mental impairment limits her to performing tasks of a fixed nature that do not require sustained attention to detail for intervals of longer than two hours and limits her to having no more than brief, task-focused interaction with the general public (Tr. 16). Relying on testimony from the impartial vocational expert, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has no past relevant work (Tr. 24).

The ALJ proceeded to the fifth step where she considered Plaintiff's residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience as well as testimony from the vocational expert (Tr. 24-25). The ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of performing a significant number of jobs that exist in the national economy (Tr. 24). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a "disability, " as defined in the Social Security Act, from June 14, 2010 through August 7, 2012, the date of the decision (Tr. 25).

Plaintiff timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision (Tr. 7-8). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-3).

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

A.

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 "disability" 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. Sullivan , 905 F.2d 918, 923 (6th Cir. 1990).

The Commissioner has promulgated regulations setting forth a five-step sequential evaluation process for evaluating a disability claim. See "Evaluation of disability in general, " 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, ...


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