United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DANNY C. REEVES, District Judge.
This matter is pending for consideration of cross-motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff William Albert Logan and Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner"). [Record Nos. 21, 22] Logan argues that the administrative law judge ("ALJ") assigned to his case erred in concluding that he is not entitled to Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") or Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under the Social Security Act ("Act"). 42 U.S.C. §§ 1382 et seq. (Supplemental Security Income), 401 et seq. (Disability Insurance Benefits). He seeks reversal of the ALJ's decision and an award of benefits. [Record No. 21] However, the Commissioner asserts that the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence and should be affirmed. [Record No. 22] For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant the Commissioner's motion and deny the relief requested by Logan.
On February 16, 2011, Logan protectively filed applications for SSI under Title XVI and for DIB under Title II of the Act. 42 U.S.C. §§ 1382 et seq., 401 et seq. [Administrative Transcript, "Tr., " at pp. 196-204, 189-195] He alleged disability beginning September 15, 2007. Both claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. On December 23, 2011, Logan, his attorney, and Vocational Expert ("VE") Joyce Forrest appeared before ALJ Greg Holsclaw for an administrative hearing. In a decision dated January 27, 2012, ALJ Holsclaw found that Logan was not disabled under §§ 216(i), 223(d), or 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Act. [Tr., pp. 21-30]
Logan was fifty-three years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. [Record No. 21-1] He has a high school education and a variety of past relevant work experiences from 1978 through 2007, including inter alia as a loader operator, flagger, and trucker. [Id.] Logan alleges that he became disabled due to the combined effects of knee pain and an unhealed clavicle fracture. [Tr., pp. 189-204]
After reviewing the record and considering the testimony presented during the administrative hearing, the ALJ concluded that Logan suffers from a number of severe impairments (including a fractured clavicles with osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease of the shoulders and knees, and an amputated tip of a finger) and could not perform his past work. [Tr., p. 23] Notwithstanding these impairments, ALJ Holsclaw found that Logan retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform less than the full range of light work, subject to the following limitations:
The claimant can lift or carry fifteen pounds occasionally, ten pounds frequently; stand or walk four hours out of an eight-hour workday. He can perform unlimited pushing or pulling up to the exertional limitation; but should not perform any overhead reaching bilaterally; and no more than occasional fine fingering with the left non-dominant hand. He can frequently balance or stoop; no more than occasionally climb ramps or stairs; never crouch, crawl or climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; and requires a sit/stand option so that a change of position can occur every thirty minutes for approximately three minutes in duration. In addition, the claimant should not perform work requiring significant math skills.
[Tr., P. 25]
Based on the VE's testimony, and after considering Logan's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined that Logan could perform other jobs that exist in the national economy. [Tr., p. 30] Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Logan is not disabled under the Act. [Id.]
Under the 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. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). Second, the claimant must show that he suffers from a severe impairment or combination of impairments. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). Third, if the claimant's severe impairment is expected to last for at least twelve months and meets or equals a listed impairment, he will be considered disabled without regard to age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925, 416.926. 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. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). If he is capable of performing past work, the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(f), 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, 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 as to "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.App'x 770, 785 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing 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 ...