United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DANNY C. REEVES, District Judge.
This matter is pending for consideration of cross-motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff Thomas Carr ("Carr" or "the Claimant") and Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner"). [Record Nos. 11, 16] Carr argues that the administrative law judge ("ALJ") erred in determining his residual functional capacity ("RFC") and assessing his credibility. As a result, Carr requests reversal of the ALJ's decision and remand of the case for further proceedings. [Record No. 11, p. 1] The Commissioner asserts that the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence and should be affirmed. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant the Commissioner's motion and deny the relief requested by Carr.
On January 13, 2012, Carr filed concurrent applications for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act ("the Act) and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Act. [Record No. 5-1, Administrative Transcript, "Tr., " p. 183-92] He alleged a disability beginning November 23, 2011. Carr's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration by the Social Security Administration ("SSA"). [Tr., pp. 103-18, 121-27] Carr, along with attorney Greg Hughes and vocational expert Teresa Trent, appeared before ALJ Gregory G. Kenyon on June 12, 2013, for an administrative hearing. [Tr., p. 32] On August 30, 2013, ALJ Kenyon found that Carr was not disabled under sections 216(i), 223(d), and 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Act. [Tr., pp. 16-31] Carr filed a request for appeal with the SSA's Appeals Council on October 22, 2013. That request was denied on March 28, 2014. [Tr., pp. 1-7]
Carr was 43 years old when his alleged disability began on November 23, 2011, and 45 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. [Tr., p. 183] He completed two years of college and previously worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative, supervisor, telephone solicitor, sales clerk, security guard, and door to door salesman. [Tr., pp. 24, 211] From November 2012 through July 2013, Carr was employed part-time by a freight carrier service clearing airway bills for the tariff department, working 30 hours per week. He alleges that he lost this job because he was unable to work 40 hours per week. [Tr., p. 205] Carr contends that he is unable to work full-time due to diabetes mellits with associated neuropathy, the residual effects of a below-knee amputation of the right leg, residuals of the amputation of the first and second toes of the left foot, degenerative disc disease of the lumbosacral spine, carotid artery disease, and peripheral vascular disease. [Tr., pp. 21-22; Record No. 11, pp. 2-4]
In March 2012, Dr. Sannagai Brown, a state agency physician, reviewed Carr's medical records. Dr. Brown concluded that, within 12 months of the alleged onset date (November 23, 2011), Carr would be able to perform light work. [Tr., pp. 74-76] State agency physician Dr. Douglas Black affirmed this assessment in June 2012. [Tr., pp. 87-89] Another state agency physician, Dr. Arvind Chopra, reviewed Carr's records on August 10, 2012, finding that he would only be able to perform sedentary work. [Tr., p. 524] All three state agency physicians agreed that Carr would be able to work eight hours a day, five days a week. Further, Carr began seeing Dr. Bradford Quatkemeyer in April 2012 and continued to see him for regular check-ups and medication refills. Notably, at the Claimant's January 29, 2013 visit, Dr. Quatkemeyer stated that, regarding his chronic pain, Carr's functional limitations included inability to complete manual labor and some activities of daily living. [Tr., p. 538] Thereafter, at an April 26, 2013 appointment, Dr. Quatkemeyer found that Carr had no functional limitations. [Tr., p. 528]
After reviewing the record and considering the testimony presented during the administrative hearing, the ALJ determined that Carr suffers from diabetes mellitus with associated neuropathy, the residual effects of a below-knee amputation of the right leg, residuals of the amputation of the first and second toes of the left foot, degenerative disc disease of the lumbosacral spine, carotid artery disease, and peripheral vascular disease. [Tr., p. 22] Notwithstanding these impairments, the ALJ concluded that Carr maintained the RFC to perform sedentary work, subject to the following limitations:
[Carr] can do only occasional crouching, crawling, stooping, kneeling, balancing, and climbing of ramps and stairs. He cannot climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds and cannot work around hazards such as unprotected heights or dangerous machinery. The claimant cannot drive automotive equipment and cannot use his lower extremities for pushing, pulling, or operating foot controls. He cannot work on rough or uneven surfaces and cannot tolerate concentrated exposure to temperature extremes or vibrations. The claimant is able to tolerate standing and walking for no more than five minutes at a time and is limited to performing unskilled, simple, repetitive tasks.
[Tr., p. 24]
The ALJ found that Carr was unable to perform past relevant work. [Tr., pp. 24-25] However, after considering his age, education, work experience, RFC, and the testimony of vocational expert Trent, the ALJ determined that there were jobs existing in significant numbers that Carr could perform, including lens inserter, table worker, and etcher helper. [Tr. p. 25] Thus, the ALJ concluded that Carr was not disabled from November 23, 2011 through August 30, 2013, the date of the administrative decision. [Tr., p. 26]
Under the Social Security 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 is not engaged in substantial gainful employment and has a severe impairment which is expected to last for at least twelve months and which 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), 416.920(d). 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. If he can, he 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 perform other work, 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 on "the fifth step, proving that there is work available in the economy that the claimant can perform.'" White v. ...