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Richards v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky

November 3, 2014

ROBERT STEPHEN RICHARDS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

CENTRAL DIVISION AT LEXINGTON OPINION AND ORDER

KAREN K. CALDWELL, Chief District Judge.

This matter is before the Court for consideration of cross-motions for summary judgment. (DE 11 & 12). The plaintiff, Robert Stephen Richards, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to obtain judicial relief of an administrative decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his claim for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). The Court, having reviewed the record, will affirm the Commissioner's decision, as it is supported by substantial evidence and was decided by the proper legal standards.

I. OVERVIEW OF THE PROCESS

In determining whether a claimant has a compensable disability under the Social Security Act, the regulations provide a five-step sequential process which the administrative law judge ("ALJ") must follow. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4); see also Rabbers v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 582 F.3d 647, 652 (6th Cir. 2009) (describing the administrative process). The five steps, in summary, are as follows:

1) If the claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, the claimant is not disabled.
2) If the claimant does not have a severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment-i.e., an impairment that significantly limits his or her physical or mental ability to do basic work activities-the claimant is not disabled.
3) If the claimant has a severe impairment(s) that meets or equals one of the listings in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the regulations and meets the duration requirement, the claimant is disabled.
4) If the claimant's impairment does not prevent him or her from doing his or her past relevant work, the claimant is not disabled.
5) If the claimant can make an adjustment to other work, the claimant is not disabled. If the claimant cannot make an adjustment to other work, the claimant is disabled.

Rabbers, 582 F.3d at 652 (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v), 404.1520(b)-(g)). The claimant bears the burden of proof through the first four steps of the analysis; but if the ALJ reaches the fifth step without finding the claimant disabled, then the burden shifts to the Commissioner. Longworth v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005). The Commissioner satisfies the burden of proof at the fifth step by finding that the claimant is qualified for-and capable of performing-jobs that are available in the national economy and may rely upon the testimony of a vocational expert ("VE") regarding the range of potential jobs. Jordan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 548 F.3d 417, 423, 425 (6th Cir. 2008).

II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND AND THE ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

Richards filed his claim for DIB on November 16, 2010, alleging an onset date of August 5, 2010. [TR 140]. The agency denied his application initially and on reconsideration. [TR 73, 78]. Richards requested review by an ALJ, and a hearing was held on June 14, 2012. [TR 27-45]. The ALJ subsequently issued an unfavorable decision on July 17, 2012. [TR 10-22].

At the time the ALJ rendered his decision, Richards was thirty-nine years old. [TR 20]. Richards graduated from high school and has past relevant work as an emergency medical technician ("EMT") and emergency room technician ("ER Tech"). [TR 20, 168]. He alleges disability due to constant pain in the upper lumbar and lower thoracic areas; Crohn's disease; and blurred vision, pain, redness, and burning. [TR 16, 18]. Richards's insured status expires on December 31, 2015. [TR 15].

First, the ALJ determined that Richards has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date of August 5, 2010. [TR 15]. Second, the ALJ found that Richards suffers from the following severe impairments: obesity, ankylosing spondylitis, chronic back strain, and Crohn's disease. [TR 15]. Third, the ALJ determined that Richards does not have an impairment or combination ...


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