United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
JOSEPH M. HOOD, Senior District Judge.
This matter is before the Court upon cross-motions for summary judgment (DE 10, 11) on Plaintiff's appeal, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), of the Commissioner's denial of his application for disability insurance benefits. The Court, having reviewed the record and the parties' motions, will deny Plaintiff's motion and grant Defendant's motion.
The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), conducts a five-step analysis to determine disability:
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 & Human 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.
Plaintiff was thirty-eight years old at the time of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 21, 199). She had a GED education and past relevant work as a cashier, maid, driver, and assembler (Tr. 221, 242). Plaintiff alleged she was disabled due to anxiety, depression, PTSD, and neck and back problems (Tr. 220). Plaintiff filed applications for disability, disability insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in January 2011, alleging she became disabled on May 15, 2010 (Tr. 195-205). An ALJ held a hearing in August 2012 and issued a decision in September 2012 finding Plaintiff not disabled (Tr. 7-21, 29-68).
The ALJ considered Plaintiff's claim using the five-step sequential evaluation process (Tr. 12-21). At steps two and three, the ALJ found Plaintiff had severe impairments of degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine; depressive disorder; and generalized anxiety disorder with panic features (Tr. 12). The ALJ then found Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform a limited range of light work, except she can only occasionally push and pull with the upper extremities, stoop, kneel, and crouch; she can frequently climb ramps and stairs, but never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds or crawl; she must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold, humidity and vibration and avoid all exposure to unprotected heights (Tr. 14). As for Plaintiff's mental limitations, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is limited to simple, repetitive tasks, with no more than casual and infrequent interaction with co-workers and supervisors in a nonpublic work environment, and she requires a low-stress work setting with no fast-paced assembly lines or production goals or quotas (Tr. 14). At step four, the ALJ found Plaintiff could not perform her past relevant work (Tr. 19).
The ALJ then considered whether Plaintiff could perform other work in the national economy and using the testimony of a vocational expert (VE), the ALJ found Plaintiff could perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy such as commercial cleaner, laundry worker, and ...