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Wightman v. Colvin

United States District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland

March 19, 2015

SHONDA LYNN WIGHTMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

KAREN K. CALDWELL, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

This matter is before the Court for consideration of cross-motions for summary judgment. (DE 16; DE 19). Plaintiff Shonda Lynn Wightman brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to obtain judicial relief of an administrative decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her claim for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). The Court, having reviewed the record, will affirm the Commissioner’s decision as it is supported by substantial evidence and was decided by the proper legal standards.

I. OVERVIEW OF THE PROCESS

The Social Security Act and corresponding regulations provide a five-step sequential process for determining whether a claimant has a compensable disability. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4); see also Rabbers v. Comm’r Soc. Sec. Admin., 582 F.3d 647, 652 (6th Cir. 2009) (describing the administrative process). The five steps, in summary, are as follows:

1) If the claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, the claimant is not disabled.
2) If the claimant does not have a severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment-i.e., an impairment that significantly limits his or her physical or mental ability to do basic work activities-the claimant is not disabled.
3) If the claimant has a severe impairment(s) that meets or equals one of the listings in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the regulations and meets the duration requirement, the claimant is disabled.
4) If the claimant’s impairment does not prevent him or her from doing his or her past relevant work, the claimant is not disabled.
5) If the claimant can make an adjustment to other work, the claimant is not disabled. If the claimant cannot make an adjustment to other work, the claimant is disabled.

Rabbers, 582 F.3d at 652 (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i)–(v), 404.1520(b)–(g)). If, at any step in the process, the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) concludes that the claimant is or is not disabled, then the ALJ can complete the “determination or decision and [the ALJ] do[es] not go on to the next step.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4).

The claimant bears the burden of proof through the first four steps of the analysis; and, at step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner. Johnson v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 652 F.3d 646, 651 (6th Cir. 2011). The claimant must, in order to satisfy her burden of proof, provide sufficient facts to find in her favor. Wright-Hines v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 597 F.3d 392, 396 (6th Cir. 2010).

II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND AND THE ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

Wightman filed her claim for DIB on January 10, 2011, alleging an onset date of July 31, 2006. (Tr. at 162.) The agency denied her application initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. at 68, 78.) Wightman requested review by an ALJ, and the ALJ held a hearing on August 15, 2012. (Tr. at 26–56.) The ALJ subsequently issued an unfavorable decision on August 31, 2012. (Tr. at 8–21.)

At the time the ALJ rendered her decision, Wightman was forty-two years old. She has completed her GED. (Tr. at 32.) Wightman previously worked as a final assembler/quality control, sewing machine operator, and dish washer. (Tr. at 19, 192.) She alleges disability due to fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease, bone spurs in her neck and back, possible multiple sclerosis, hypertension, osteoarthritis, neck swelling, and right knee pain ...


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