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Cooney v. Colvin

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

February 13, 2015

JUSTIN WAYNE COONEY, Plaintiff
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION ORDER AND ORDER

H. BRENT BRENNENSTUHL, Magistrate Judge.

BACKGROUND

Before the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Justin Wayne Cooney ("Plaintiff") seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both the Plaintiff (DN 13, 14) and Defendant (DN 19) 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 11). By Order entered September 4, 2014 (DN 12), 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 March 4, 2013, Plaintiff protectively filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income Benefits (Tr. 12, 217-223, 224-230, 258). Plaintiff alleged that he became disabled on May 18, 2012, as a result of bipolar disorder, stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis, depression, heart problems, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (Tr. 12, 217, 224, 257, 262, 263). Administrative Law Judge Kevin R. Martin ("ALJ") conducted a hearing on January 9, 2014, in Evansville, Indiana (Tr. 12, 29-31). Plaintiff was present and represented by attorney Austin P. Vowels (Tr. 12, 29-31). Also present and testifying was Lisa A. Courtney, an impartial vocational expert (Tr. 12, 29-31).

In a decision dated January 28, 2014, the ALJ evaluated this adult disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr. 10-22). At the first step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 18, 2012, the alleged onset date (Tr. 14). At the second step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff=s history of ulcerative colitis; bipolar disorder; panic disorder; post-traumatic stress disorder; and ADHD are "severe" impairments within the meaning of the regulations (Tr. 15). 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. 15).

At the fourth step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform less than a full range of medium work because he may understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions in work settings requiring no more than occasional interaction with supervisors and coworkers and no more than incidental interaction with the public (Tr. 17). Further, the ALJ found Plaintiff has no past relevant work (Tr. 21).

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. 21-22). The ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of performing a significant number of jobs that exist in the national economy (Tr. 21-22). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a "disability, " as defined in the Social Security Act, from May 18, 2012 through January 28, 2014, the date of the decision (Tr. 22).

Plaintiff timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the ALJ=s decision (Tr. 7). 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. Sullivan, 905 F.2d 918, 923 (6th Cir. 1990).

The Commissioner has promulgated regulations setting forth a five-step sequential evaluation process for evaluating a disability claim. See "Evaluation of disability in general, " 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. In summary, the evaluation proceeds as follows:

1) Is the claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity?
2) Does the claimant have a medically determinable impairment or combination of impairments that satisfies the duration requirement and significantly limits his or her ability to do basic work activities?
3) Does the claimant have an impairment that meets or medically equals the criteria of a listed impairment within Appendix 1?
4) Does the claimant have the residual functional capacity to return to his or her past relevant work?
5) Does the claimant's residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience allow him or her to perform a significant ...

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