United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort
OPINION AND ORDER
KAREN K. CALDWELL, Chief District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings (DE 14) and Defendant's motion for summary judgment (DE 15). Plaintiff Alison Shader 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 her claim for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). 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
The Social Security Act and corresponding regulations provide a five-step sequential process for determining whether a claimant has a compensable disability. 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)). If, at any step in the process, the administrative law judge ("ALJ") concludes that the claimant is or is not disabled, then the ALJ can complete the "determination or decision and [the ALJ] do[es] not go on to the next step." 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4).
The claimant bears the burden of proof through the first four steps of the analysis; and, at step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner. Johnson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 652 F.3d 646, 651 (6th Cir. 2011). The claimant must, in order to satisfy her burden of proof, provide sufficient facts to find in her favor. Wright-Hines v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 597 F.3d 392, 396 (6th Cir. 2010). It is also the claimant's responsibility to supplement the record to resolve any factual ambiguity. Id.
II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND AND THE ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
Shader first applied for disability and disability insurance benefits on March 8, 2010. (Tr. at 101.) Her claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration, and an ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on June 20, 2011. (Tr. 98-109.) Shader did not appeal that decision. (Tr. at 33.)
Then Shader filed her current claim for SSI-alleging an onset date of June 27, 2011. (Tr. at 195.) The agency again denied her application initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. 96, 126.) Shader requested review by an ALJ, and a different ALJ held a hearing on September 26, 2013. (Tr. at 30-61.) The ALJ subsequently issued an unfavorable decision on October 11, 2013. (Tr. at 13-26.)
At the time the ALJ rendered his decision, Shader was forty-eight years old. She has completed high school but has no additional educational or vocational training. (Tr. at 25, 48.) Shader previously worked as an assembler at a factory that manufactured car parts. (Tr. at 25, 34-35, 54-55.) She alleges disability due to back problems, degenerative "neck do, " degenerative disc disease, depression, nerve problems, and torticollis. (Tr. at 114.)
At the first step, the ALJ determined that Shader has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her application date. (Tr. at 18.) At the second step, the ALJ found that Shader suffers from the following severe impairments: "torticollis (twisting of the neck); degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine; myelopathy; asthma; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); depressive disorder; and anxiety disorder." (Tr. at 18.) At the third step, the ALJ concluded that Shader does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments. (Tr. at 18-20.)
Next, the ALJ reviewed the record to determine Shader's residual functional capacity ("RFC"). RFC assesses a claimant's maximum remaining capacity to perform work-related activities despite the physical and mental limitations caused by the claimant's disability. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545(a)(1), 416.945(a)(1). In finding Shader's RFC, the ALJ considered all symptoms in light of the objective medical evidence and other relevant evidence, including the following: (1) daily activities; (2) location, duration, frequency, and intensity of symptoms; (3) precipitating and aggravating factors; (4) type, dosage, effectiveness, and side effects of any medication; (5) additional treatment; (6) additional measures used to relieve symptoms; and (7) other factors concerning functional limitations and restrictions due to symptoms. 20 C.F.R. § 416.929; SSR 96-4p, 1996 WL 374187 (July 2, 1996); SSR 96-7p, 1996 WL 374186 (July 2, 1996). The ALJ also considered the relationship between Shader and the doctors providing medical opinions; the supportability and consistency of the medical opinions ...