United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM ORDER AND OPINION
JOSEPH M. HOOD, 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 her application for disability insurance benefits. For the reasons discussed below, the Commissioner's motion will be granted and Plaintiff's motion will be denied.
I. Overview of the Process and the Instant Matter
The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), in determining disability, must conduct a five-step analysis:
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 & Human 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.
The ALJ determined that McKay had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 5, 2011 [DE 10-1, ID# 74]. Considering step two, the ALJ found that McKay possessed a host of severe impairments including degenerative disk disease of the lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine; a history of right carpal tunnel syndrome; mitral valve prolapsed by history; COPD; and degenerative joint disease of the left knee. Id. During step three of the analysis, the ALJ concluded that none of McKay's impairments or combinations of impairments met the severity listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Id. at ID# 76.
At step four, the ALJ determined that McKay had a residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work as defined by 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b), except that she could
occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; must avoid concentrated exposure to extremes in temperature, vibration, and pulmonary irritants; and cannot work at unprotected heights or around hazardous moving machinery.
Based on this RFC, the ALJ found that McKay was able to perform her past relevant work as an assembly worker. Id. at ID# 80. Accordingly, he concluded, McKay was not ...