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Hill v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, Pikeville

March 27, 2015

TERRY LYNN HILL, Plaintiff.
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

KAREN K. CALDWELL, Chief District Judge.

This matter is before the Court for consideration of cross-motions for summary judgment. (DE 13; DE 14). Plaintiff Terry Lynn Hill 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 his 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 his burden of proof, provide sufficient facts to find in his favor. Wright-Hines v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 597 F.3d 392, 396 (6th Cir. 2010).

II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND AND THE ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

Hill filed his claim for DIB on February 24, 2011, alleging an onset date of July 7, 2010. (Tr. at 160.) The agency denied his application initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. at 75, 90.) Hill requested review by an ALJ, and the ALJ held a hearing on January 23, 2013. (Tr. at 36-65.) The ALJ subsequently issued an unfavorable decision on February 12, 2013. (Tr. at 20-31.)

At the time the ALJ rendered her decision, Hill was fifty-seven years old. He has an eighth-grade education and previously worked as an equipment operator and mine mechanic in the coal-mining industry. (Tr. at 44, 59.) The vocational expert ("VE") characterized Hill's past work as "skilled employment." (Tr. at 59.) Hill alleges disability due to depression, left rotator cuff surgery, gall bladder removal, high blood pressure, acid reflux, and weak vision. (Tr. at 66.) His insured status expires on September 30, 2015. (Tr. at 25.)

At the first step, the ALJ determined that Hill has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date of July 7, 2010. (Tr. at 25.) At the second step, the ALJ found that Hill suffers from the following severe impairment: "status-post left rotator cuff repair with degenerative arthritis." (Tr. at 25.) The ALJ found that the other alleged severe impairments were adequately managed with medication or lacked evidence of a diagnosis or treatment. (Tr. at 26-27.) Overall, the ALJ noted that the other alleged impairments lacked "evidence [that they] cause[] significant work related limitations at this time." (Tr. at 26-27.) At the third step, the ...


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