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Jordan v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division at Ashland

November 6, 2014

LINDA JORDAN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

OPINION & ORDER

KAREN K. CALDWELL, Chief District Judge.

The plaintiff, Linda Jordan, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to obtain judicial review of an administrative decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her claim for period of disability and 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 must follow. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)-(e); see Walters v. Commissioner of Social Security, 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, she is not disabled.
(2) If the claimant is not doing substantial gainful activity, her impairment must be severe before she can be found disabled
(3) If the claimant is not doing substantial gainful activity and is suffering from a severe impairment that has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months, and her impairment meets or equals a listed impairment, the claimant is presumed disabled without further inquiry.
(4) If the claimant's impairment does not prevent her from doing past relevant work, she is not disabled.
(5) Even if the claimant's impairment does prevent her from doing her past relevant work, if other work exists in the national economy that accommodates her residual functional capacity and vocational factors (age, education, skills, etc), she is not disabled.

Id.

The burden of proof is on the claimant throughout the first four steps of this process to prove that she is disabled. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146, n. 5 (1987). If the administrative law judge reaches the fifth step without a finding that the claimant is disabled, then the burden shifts to the Commissioner to consider her residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience to determine if she could perform other work. If not, she would be deemed disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f). Importantly, the Commissioner only has the burden of proof on "the fifth step, proving that there is work available in the economy that the claimant can perform." Her v. Commissioner of Social Security, 203 F.3d 388, 391 (6th Cir. 1999).

II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND AND THE ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

Jordan filed her claim for DIB on January 10, 2011, alleging an onset date of June 1, 2006 [TR 215]. The agency denied her application initially and on reconsideration [TR 83-84]. Jordan requested review by an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), and a hearing was held on April 13, 2012 [TR 31-75]. The ALJ subsequently issued an unfavorable decision on May 23, 2012 [TR 12-23].

At the time the ALJ rendered her decision, Jordan was 55 years old. [TR 23, 215]. She is a high school graduate and has past relevant work experience as a furniture sales person [TR 220]. She alleges disability due to severe rheumatoid arthritis; swelling in the ankles, hands, and feet; and pain in the legs, feet, right finger and right hand [TR 219]. Although Jordan initially alleged that she became disabled on June 1, 2006, she later amended her ...


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