United States District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland
KOTY D. TACKETT, PLAINTIFF,
CAROLYN COLVIN, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Henry R. Wilhoit, Jr., United States District Judge
Plaintiff has brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g) to challenge a final decision of the Defendant denying Plaintiffs application for supplemental security income benefits. The Court having reviewed the record in this case and the dispositive motions filed by the parties, and being otherwise sufficiently advised, for the reasons set forth herein, finds that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge is supported by substantial evidence and should be affirmed.
I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff filed applications for supplemental security income benefits on November 22, 2010 and for Child Disability Benefits on December 30, 2010, alleging disability due to asthma, diabetes and kidney stones. This application was denied initially and on reconsideration. On April 13, 2012, an administrative hearing was conducted by Administrative Law Judge Charlie Paul Andrus (hereinafter "ALJ"), wherein Plaintiff, accompanied by counsel, testified. At the hearing, Dwight McMillion, a vocational expert (hereinafter "VE"), also testified.
At the hearing, the ALJ considered the evidence using the three-ster sequential evaluation to determine whether an individual under the age of 18 is disabled as well the five-step sequential analysis in order to determine whether an adult is disabled. See 20 C.F.R, § 416.924(a) and 20 C.F.R. § 416.920.
On October 5, 2012, the ALJ issued his decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled (Tr. 12-29). Plaintiff was 18 years old at the time of his applications. He graduated from high school and had no work history. At the time of the applications, he was a college student.
After reviewing all of the evidence and testimony, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff, prior to age 18, had severe impairments due to degenerative disc disease, type I diabetes, asthma, and renal stones (Tr. 17). After attaining the age of 18, Plaintiffs severe impairments continued to be degenerative disc disease, diabetes, and asthma, but there was no evidence that renal stones continued to pose a long-term problem (Tr. 25). Before age 18, Plaintiff did not have a medical impairment or combination of impairments that met, medically equaled, or functionally met a Listing, nor did he have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled a Listing after attaining the age of 18 (Tr. 17-25). As of the age of 18, Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work, with restrictions including occasionally climbing ladders and frequently stooping, crouching, and crawling; and no exposure to extreme cold temperatures, high humidity, vibrations, excessive dust or fumes, heights, or working around open dangerous machinery; and Plaintiff had to have a sit/stand option at one- to two-hour intervals (Tr. 25). The ALJ utilized the testimony of a vocational expert (VE) to determine that, considering Plaintiffs age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform (Tr. 28-29). Consequently, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled (Tr. 29).
The Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request for review and adopted the ALJ's decision as the final decision of the Commissioner.
Plaintiff thereafter filed this civil action seeking a reversal of the Commissioner's decision. Both parties have filed Motions for Summary Judgment [Docket Nos. 11 and 12] and this matter is ripe for decision.
A. Standard of Review
The essential issue on appeal to this Court is whether the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence. "Substantial evidence" is defined as "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion;" it is based on the record as a whole and must take into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from its weight. Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6(h Cir. 1984). If the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, the reviewing Court must affirm. Kirk v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 667 F.2d 524, 535 (6th Cir. 1981), cert, denied, 461 U.S. 957 (1983). "The court may not try the case de novo nor resolve conflicts in evidence, nor decide questions of credibility." Bradley v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 862 F.2d 1224, 1228 (6th Cir. 1988). Finally, this Court must defer to the Commissioner's decision "even if there is substantial evidence in the record that would have supported an opposite conclusion, so long as substantial evidence supports the conclusion reached by the ALJ." Key v, Callahan, 109 F.3d 270, 273 (6th Cir. 1997).
B. Plaintiff's Contentions on Appeal
Plaintiff contends that the ALJ's finding of no disability is erroneous because: (1) the ALJ did not properly evaluate the medical opinion evidence and (2) the ALJ did not properly assess ...