United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
EDWARD B. ATKINS, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff, Keith Rhodes, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to challenge the Defendant Commissioner's final decision denying his application for disability insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). [Record No. 13]. Upon consent of the parties, this matter has been referred to the undersigned to conduct all proceedings and order the entry of final judgment in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73. [Record No. 18]. Now ripe for decision on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, and for the reasons set forth herein, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [Record No. 13] shall be denied, the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Record No. 14] shall be granted, and Judgment shall be entered affirming the final decision of the Commissioner.
II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND & PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On January 20, 2011, the Plaintiff filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. [Tr. 171-174]. In these applications, the Plaintiff alleged disability since March 20, 2008. Id. In his Disability Report, Form SSA-3368, the Plaintiff claimed his work ability was limited due to his back, shoulder, carpel tunnel, high blood pressure, torn rotator cuff, neck problems, knees, feet, hernia repair surgery, stomach problems and bladder surgery. [Tr. 196-201]. His claim was denied initially [Tr. 50-54], and on reconsideration [Tr. 1-6]. After denial of his claim, Plaintiff requested a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). [Tr. 125-131].
On March 26, 2012 a hearing was held before ALJ Michelle Thompson. [Tr. 10-31]. The Plaintiff testified at the hearing, and was represented by Rodney Davis. [Tr. 10-31]. ALJ Thompson denied Plaintiff's claim for benefits in a written decision dated May 9, 2012. [Tr. 53-62]. In evaluating Plaintiff's claim, the ALJ applied the five-step sequential evaluation process to determine that he was not disabled. see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520; 416.920. At the first step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the date of his application for benefits. [Tr. 55]. Next, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease; left shoulder osteoarthritis; carpel tunnel syndrome; hypertension; and obesity. [Tr. 55]. At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's medically determinable impairments did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. [Tr. 56].
Before proceeding to the fourth step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments left him with the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a limited range of light work as defined by the Regulations. [Tr. 55-57]. Specifically, with respect to his physical limitations, the ALJ described Plaintiff's residual functional capacity as follows:
Claimant has the residual functional ability to lift up to 10 pounds frequently and up to 20 pounds occasionally. He can sit, stand and/or walk for six hours in an eight hour day. He can occasionally climb, stoop, kneel and crouch. He is limited to occasional overhead lifting.
The fourth step of the analysis is to determine whether the Plaintiff's residual functional capacity would allow him to perform the requirements of his past relevant work. The ALJ determined that the Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work. see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563, 416.963. [Tr. 60]. At the fifth and final step, relying on the testimony of the Vocational Expert ("VE") and taking into consideration Plaintiff's age, educational background, past relevant work experience, and residual functional capacity, the ALJ must determine whether the Plaintiff is capable of making a successful adjustment to work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.159(a); 416.969(a). Based on the testimony of the Vocational Expert, the ALJ held that, "[c]onsidering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, the claimant is capable of making a successful adjustment to other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy." [Tr. 61]. Based on these findings, the ALJ determined that the Plaintiff was not under a "disability" as defined by the Social Security Act, see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g). [Tr. 62].
Following the adverse decision of the ALJ, Plaintiff properly exhausted his administrative remedies. [Tr. 4-6]. On August 30, 2013, Plaintiff initiated the present action by filing his Complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. [Record No. 1]. In his Motion for Summary Judgment, the Plaintiff claims that the ALJ failed to properly consider the independent functional capacity report from Blue Grass Physical Therapy. [Record No. 13]. The Commissioner responds that the ALJ's decision should be affirmed, as it was reached applying the proper standards and was supported by substantial evidence. [Record No. 14]. Following briefing, this matter was referred to the undersigned, upon the consent of the parties for all proceedings. [Record No. 18].
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a reviewing court "must affirm the Commissioner's conclusions absent a determination that the Commissioner has failed to apply the correct legal standard or has made findings of fact unsupported by substantial evidence in the record." Longworth v. Comm'r Soc. Sec., 402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted). The scope of judicial review is limited to the record itself, and the reviewing court "may not try the case de novo, nor resolve ...