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Corbett v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

February 9, 2015

MICHELLE LYNN CORBETT, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

H. BRENT BRENNENSTUHL, Magistrate Judge.

BACKGROUND

Before the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Michelle Lynn Corbett ("Plaintiff") seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both the Plaintiff (DN 14) and Defendant (DN 15) have filed a Fact and Law Summary.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, the parties have consented to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge conducting all further proceedings in this case, including issuance of a memorandum opinion and entry of judgment, with direct review by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in the event an appeal is filed (DN 12). By Order entered June 17, 2014 (DN 13), the parties were notified that oral arguments would not be held unless a written request therefor was filed and granted. No such request was filed.

FINDINGS OF FACT

On May 25, 2011, Plaintiff protectively filed an application for Supplemental Security Income Benefits[1] (Tr. 166-172, 179). Plaintiff alleged that she became disabled on October 1, 2003, as a result of degenerative disc disease in her neck and back, spondylosis, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (Tr. 179, 183). On November 1, 2012, Administrative Law Judge Jonathan Stanley ("ALJ") presided over a video hearing from Lexington, Kentucky (Tr. 8, 22-24). Plaintiff and her attorney, George Seelig, participated in the video hearing from Campbellsville, Kentucky (Tr. 8, 22-24). Also participating in the video hearing was Laura Whitten, an impartial vocational expert (Tr. 8, 22-24).

In a decision dated December 7, 2012, the ALJ evaluated this adult disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr. 8-17). At the first step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 25, 2011, the application date (Tr. 10). At the second step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's degenerative disc disease of the lumbar and cervical spine; status post right total knee replacement surgery; status post cervical spinal cord stimulator surgery with revision; status post lumbar spinal cord stimulator surgery; major depressive disorder; post-traumatic stress disorder; and asthma are "severe" impairments within the meaning of the regulations (Tr. 10). Notably, at the second step, the ALJ also determined that Plaintiff's status post thoracic outlet surgery, diabetes mellitus type II, headaches, and tobacco use are "non-severe" impairments within the meaning of the regulations (Tr. 12). At the third step, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in Appendix 1 (Tr. 12).

At the fourth step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform less than a full range of light work because she can occasionally climb stairs and ramps; she cannot climb ropes, ladders, and scaffolds; she can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl; she must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold, pulmonary irritants, and vibration; she cannot work at unprotected heights or around hazardous moving machinery; she can understand, remember and carry out short, simple instructions and make simple work-related judgments; she can maintain adequate attention and concentration to perform simple tasks; she can perform simple routine repetitive work; she can manage and tolerate simple routine changes in the work place setting; and she can interact with supervisors, coworkers, and the general public (Tr. 13-14). The ALJ found Plaintiff has no past relevant work (Tr. 16).

The ALJ proceeded to the fifth step where he considered Plaintiff's residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience as well as testimony from the vocational expert (Tr. 16-17). The ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of performing a significant number of jobs that exist in the national economy (Tr. 16-17). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a "disability, " as defined in the Social Security Act, from May 25, 2011 through December 7, 2012, the date of the decision (Tr. 17).

Plaintiff timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision (Tr. 4). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-3).

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

The Social Security Act authorizes payment of Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income to persons with disabilities. 42 U.S.C.§ 401 et seq. (Title II Disability Insurance Benefits), 1381 et seq. (Title XVI Supplemental Security Income). The term "disability" is defined as an

[i]nability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve (12) months.

42 U.S.C.§ 423(d)(1)(A) (Title II), 1382c(a)(3)(A) (Title XVI); 20 C.F.R.§ 404.1505(a), 416.905(a); Barnhart v. Walton, 535 U.S. 212, 214 (2002); Abbott v. ...


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