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Gibson v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, Pikeville

January 15, 2015

ACQUILLA GIBSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOSEPH M. HOOD, Senior District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon cross-motions for Summary Judgment [DE 12, 13] on Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner's denial of his application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. [Tr. 8-22].[1] The Court, having reviewed the record and being otherwise sufficiently advised, will grant Plaintiff's motion and deny Defendant's motion.

I. Overview of the Process and the Instant Matter

The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), in determining disability, conducts a five-step analysis:

1. An individual who is working and engaging in substantial gainful activity is not disabled, regardless of the claimant's medical condition.
2. An individual who is working but does not have a "severe" impairment which significantly limits his physical or mental ability to do basic work activities is not disabled.
3. If an individual is not working and has a severe impairment which "meets the duration requirement and is listed in appendix 1 or is equal to a listed impairment(s)", then he is disabled regardless of other factors.
4. If a decision cannot be reached based on current work activity and medical facts alone, and the claimant has a severe impairment, then the Secretary reviews the claimant's residual functional capacity and the physical and mental demands of the claimant's previous work. If the claimant is able to continue to do this previous work, then he is not disabled.
5. If the claimant cannot do any work he did in the past because of a severe impairment, then the Secretary considers his residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience to see if he can do other work. If he cannot, the claimant is disabled.

Preslar v. Sec'y of Health & Hum. Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 (1982)). "The burden of proof is on the claimant throughout the first four steps of this process to prove that he is disabled." Id. "If the analysis reaches the fifth step without a finding that the claimant is not disabled, the burden transfers to the Secretary." Id.

In the instant matter, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the relevant time period under step one. [Tr. 13]. Under step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's history of minor degenerative joint disease in the knees, morbid obesity, diabetes, generalized anxiety disorder, and depression were "severe" as defined by the agency's regulations. [Tr. 13]; 20 CFR § 416.920(c).

During step three of the analysis, the ALJ considered all of Plaintiff's impairments and decided that none of them met the criteria listed in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1. [Tr. 14]. After further review of the record, the ALJ concluded at step four that Plaintiff had a residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work, but was limited in that she could never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds and could occasionally climb ramps and stairs and occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. Plaintiff must avoid concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritants (fumes, odors, dust, gasses, and poorly ventilated areas) and hazards (moving machinery and unprotected heights). [Tr. 16]. Plaintiff was further limited in that she could remember, understand, and carry out detailed and simple instructions; make judgments on simple work-related decisions and deal with changes in a routine work setting. Finally, Plaintiff could have no interaction with the public and only occasional interaction with co-workers and supervisors. [Tr. 16-17].

The ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to perform any of her past relevant work. [Tr. 21]. However, there were jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. [Tr. 21]. Thus, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff is not disabled under the Social Security Act. [Tr. 22].

Plaintiff appeals the decision of the ALJ. Plaintiff argues that the ALJ's finding that Plaintiff's back pain is not severe is not based on substantial evidence and that the ALJ failed to sustain its burden of establishing that there is ...


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