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Mullins v. Colvin

United States District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky, Southern Division, Pikeville

March 12, 2015



Joseph M. Hood, Senior U.S. District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon cross-motions for Summary Judgment [DE 7, 8] on Plaintiff’s appeal of the Commissioner’s denial of his application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. [Tr. 8-24].[1]The Court, having reviewed the record and being otherwise sufficiently advised, will deny Plaintiff’s motion and grant Defendant’s motion.

I. Overview of the Process and the Instant Matter

The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), in determining disability, conducts a five-step analysis:

1. 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 & Hum. 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.

In the instant matter, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the relevant time period under step one. [Tr. 13]. Under step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff’s degenerative disc disease of the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine, his deformity of the right hand index finger (status, post-trauma), his right periorbital trauma, decreased hearing, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were “severe” as defined by the agency’s regulations. [Tr. 13]; 20 CFR § 416.920(c).

During step three of the analysis, the ALJ considered all of Plaintiff’s impairments and decided that none of them met the criteria listed in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1. [Tr. 14]. After further review of the record, the ALJ concluded at step four that Plaintiff had a residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform less than the full range of light work wherein he could lift, carry, push, and pull 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds occasionally and sit, stand, and walk six hours each out of an eight-hour workday as needed, but was limited to occasionally push and pull at these levels. Plaintiff could reach below shoulder level with the right upper extremity with no problem, but only occasionally reach overhead and up to shoulder level with that extremity. He could not climb ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes, and scaffolding and could only occasionally stoop, and frequently craw. Plaintiff must avoid concentrated exposure to work hazards (including unprotected heights, moving mechanical parts, uneven surfaces and large bodies of water), as well as concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dusts, gases, poor ventilation, extreme cold and vibration, and cannot tolerate concentrate exposure to loud noises. Plaintiff was further limited in that he could only occasionally use the right index finger for grasping and pinching, and that he would have to turn his head to the right to see items on that side because he lacks peripheral vision out of his right eye. Lastly, because of his hearing problem, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could only have occasional interaction with the public, co-workers, and supervisors. [Tr. 16-17].

The ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to perform any of his past relevant work. [Tr. 22]. However, there were jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. [Tr. 23]. Thus, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff is not disabled under the Social Security Act. [Tr. 24].

Plaintiff appeals the decision of the ALJ. Plaintiff argues that the ALJ improperly weighed the opinions of several physicians’ reports in the record, as well as the records from Hollistic Medical, LLC, and, therefore, ...

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