United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DAVID L. BUNNING, District Judge.
Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to obtain judicial review of an administrative decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. The Court, having reviewed the record and the parties' dispositive motions, will affirm the Commissioner's decision, as it is supported by substantial evidence.
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
On April 16, 2009, Plaintiff Marshall Jackson filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), alleging an onset date of April 1, 2004, with a date last insured (DLI) of June 30, 2008. (TR 182, 239). Plaintiff was 39 years old at the time of filing. (TR 32). He attended but did not graduate high school, speaks English, and has previously worked as a laborer and machinist. (TR 76, 243, 245). Plaintiff alleges he is unable to work because of lung, back, and hand impairments; infection behind the ears; and high blood pressure. (TR 244).
Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and again on reconsideration. (TR 106, 117). After a May 2010 hearing, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Katherine Wisz ruled that Plaintiff was not disabled. (TR 59). The Appeals Council vacated and remanded on July 28, 2011. (TR 99-102). On March 29, 2012, after a second hearing, ALJ Don C. Paris also ruled that Plaintiff was not disabled. (TR 10). That decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied review. (TR 1).
The present action was filed on September 12, 2013. (Doc. # 1). This matter has culminated in cross-motions for summary judgment, which are now ripe for adjudication. (Docs. # 14, 16).
A. Overview of the Process
Judicial review of the Commissioner's decision is restricted to determining whether it is supported by substantial evidence and was made pursuant to proper legal standards. See Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994). "Substantial evidence" is defined as "more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. Courts are not to conduct a de novo review, resolve conflicts in the evidence, or make credibility determinations. See id. Rather, we are to affirm the Commissioner's decision, provided it is supported by substantial evidence, even if we might have decided the case differently. See Her v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 203 F.3d 388, 389-90 (6th Cir. 1999).
The ALJ, in determining disability, conducts a five-step analysis. Step 1 considers whether the claimant is still performing substantial gainful activity; Step 2, whether any of the claimant's impairments are "severe"; Step 3, whether the impairments meet or equal a listing in the Listing of Impairments; Step 4, whether the claimant can still perform his past relevant work; and Step 5, whether significant numbers of other jobs exist in the national economy which the claimant can perform. As to the last step, the burden of proof shifts from the claimant to the Commissioner. See Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003); Preslar v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994).
B. The ALJ's Determination
At Step 1, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity from his alleged onset date of April 1, 2004. (TR 15). At Step 2, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, chronic back pain, chronic cervical strain, and degenerative arthritis with joint pain. (TR 16). At Step 3, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Id.
At Step 4, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), with the following limitations: occasionally lift and carry 20 pounds and frequently 10 pounds; stand and walk a total of six hours in an eight hour workday; sit a total of six hours out of an eight-hour workday; no more than frequent pushing and pulling with right upper extremity; occasionally climb stairs and ramps; never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; no more than frequent reaching overhead with the right upper extremity; avoid concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dust, gases, extreme cold, heat, and humidity. (TR 17). Relying on Plaintiff's RFC to perform light work and the vocational expert's testimony, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff could perform his past relevant work as an assembler. (TR 20).
At Step 5, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was 34 years old on the alleged disability onset date, has a limited education, and is able to communicate in English. (TR 21). Considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff could perform a significant number of jobs in the national economy. Id. ALJ Paris thus concluded ...