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Crain v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

March 24, 2015



KAREN K. CALDWELL, Chief District Judge.

This matter is before the Court for consideration of cross-motions for summary judgment. (DE 10; DE 11). Plaintiff Vickie Charlene Crain 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 Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). The Court having reviewed the record will remand the Commissioner's decision for the reasons set forth below.


The Social Security Act requires the administrative law judge ("ALJ"), acting on behalf of the Commissioner, to follow a "five-step sequential process" for adjudicating claims of disability. Engebrecht v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 572 F.App'x 392, 394 (6th Cir. 2014).

First, a claimant must demonstrate that she is not engaged in "substantial gainful activity" at the time she seeks disability benefits. Id. at 395. Second, a claimant must show that she suffers from one or more "severe impairments." Id. A "severe impairment" is any impairment which "significantly limits [a claimant's] physical or mental ability to do basic work activities." 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). Third, if the claimant "is not performing substantial gainful activity, has a severe impairment that is expected to last for at least [the durational requirement], and the impairment meets a listed impairment, [she] is presumed to be disabled regardless of age, education or work experience.'" Engebrecht, 572 F.App'x at 395 (quoting Heston v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d 528, 534 (6th Cir. 2001)). Fourth, the claimant must prove that her impairment prevents her from doing her past relevant work. Engebrecht, 572 F.App'x at 395. At the fifth step, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to establish that the claimant's impairment does not prevent her from doing other work in the national economy. Id.

If, at any step in the process, the 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, 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). The ALJ may not, however, "cherry-pick[] select portions of the medical record" to find the claimant not disabled. Minor v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 513 F.App'x 417, 435 (6th Cir. 2013).


Crain filed her claim for SSI on April 29, 2010 and at the hearing held on May 11, 2012 changed her alleged onset date to April 29, 2010. (Tr. at 30.) The agency denied her application initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. at 93, 108.) Crain requested review by an ALJ, and the ALJ held two hearings. (Tr. at 27-43, 44-72.) The ALJ specifically postponed the first hearing so that Crain could "get an updated pulmonary function study, " and Crain's pulmonologist conducted another study in August 2012 (Tr. at 41, 775-76). After the ALJ held a second hearing on October 17, 2012, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. (Tr. at 7-21.)

At the time the ALJ rendered his decision, Crain was forty-five years old. She has an eighth-grade education and no past relevant work. (Tr. at 55, 65.) Crain alleges disability due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ("COPD"), back pain, hypertension, bilateral hip pain, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder with panic attacks, and personality disorder. (Tr. at 293.)

At the first step, the ALJ determined that Crain has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date of April 29, 2010. (Tr. at 12.) At the second step, the ALJ found that Crain suffers from the following severe impairments: "[COPD], history of back and neck pain, hypertension, bilateral hip pain, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder with panic attacks, and personality disorder with obsessive compulsive and borderline traits." (Tr. at 12.) At the third step, the ALJ concluded that Crain does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments. (Tr. at 13-15.) The results of Crain's August 2012 pulmonary function study found that her respiratory limitations would meet the listing requirement under 20 C.F.R. § 404, subpt. P, app. 1, § 3.02 for individuals taller than 60 inches; however, the ALJ determined that Crain's height is 60 inches. (Tr. at 13.)

Next, the ALJ reviewed the record to determine Crain's residual functional capacity ("RFC"). RFC assesses a claimant's maximum remaining capacity to perform work-related activities despite the physical and mental limitations caused by the claimant's disability. 20 C.F.R. § 416.945(a)(1). In finding Crain's RFC, the ALJ considered all symptoms in light of the objective medical evidence and other relevant evidence, including the following: (1) daily activities; (2) location, duration, frequency, and intensity of symptoms; (3) precipitating and aggravating factors; (4) type, dosage, effectiveness, and side effects of any medication; (5) additional treatment; (6) additional measures used to relieve symptoms; and

(7) other factors concerning functional limitations and restrictions due to symptoms. 20 C.F.R. § 416.929; SSR 96-4p, 1996 WL 374187 (July 2, 1996); SSR 96-7p, 1996 WL 374186 (July 2, 1996). The ALJ also considered the relationship between Crain and the doctors providing medical opinions; the supportability and consistency of the medical opinions with the entire record evidence; medical specialization; and other opinion evidence. 20 C.F.R. § 416.927; SSR 06-3p, 2006 WL 2329939 (Aug. 9, 2006); SSR 96-2p, 1996 WL 374188 (July 2, 1996); SSR 96-5p, 1996 WL 374183 (July 2, 1996); SSR 96-6p, 1996 WL 374180 (July 2, 1996).

After reviewing all the record evidence, the ALJ determined that Crain has the RFC to perform light work with numerous limitations. (Tr. at 15.) "Light work involves lifting no more than 20 pounds at a time with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to 10 pounds... [and may] require[] a good deal of walking or standing, or... [sitting and manipulating] arm or leg controls." 20 CFR § 416.967(b). The ALJ found that the following limitations applied:

[S]tanding no more than 2 hours at a time and walking no more than 10 minutes at a time; sitting 6 hours in an 8-hour day; no work-related climbing; occasional stooping and crouching; never crawling; occasional overhead reaching and no overhead lifting; avoidance of even moderate exposure to temperature extremes and humidity; avoidance of concentrated exposure to vibration; avoidance of even moderate exposure to dusts, odors, fumes, gases, etc.; avoidance of all exposure to unprotected heights; limited to simple, repetitive tasks; able to ...

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