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Jonas v. Colvin

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

April 28, 2015



KAREN K. CALDWELL, Chief District Judge.

This matter is before the Court for consideration of cross-motions for summary judgment. (DE 12; DE 14). The plaintiff, Douglas Ronald Jonas, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to obtain judicial review of an administrative decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his claim for 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.


The Social Security Act and corresponding regulations provide that the administrative law judge ("ALJ") must follow a five-step sequential process in 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 ALJ concludes that the claimant is or is not disabled, the ALJ can then 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).

Through the first four steps of the analysis, the burden of proof is on the claimant to show that he is disabled; if the ALJ reaches step five without finding that the claimant is disabled, the burden of proof shifts to the Commissioner. Johnson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 652 F.3d 646, 651 (6th Cir. 2011). In order for the claimant to satisfy his burden of proof, he must provide sufficient facts to find in his favor. Wright-Hines v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 597 F.3d 392, 396 (6th Cir. 2010).


Jonas filed his claim for DIB on April 4, 2011, alleging an onset date of January 1, 2011. (Tr. at 217.) The agency denied his application initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. at 112, 127.) Jonas requested review by an ALJ, and the ALJ held a hearing on November 7, 2012. (Tr. at 36-97.) The ALJ subsequently issued an unfavorable decision on December 21, 2012. (Tr. at 19-31.)

At the time the ALJ rendered his decision, Jonas was 46 years old. (Tr. at 45.) He has an eighth grade education; he repeated the ninth grade twice and did not complete a third attempt. (Tr. at 45, 276.) Jonas previously worked as a self-employed handyman, a maintenance man, and a welder. (Tr. at 47-49, 52-57.) He alleges disability due to various musculoskeletal pains, migraine headaches, and mental disorders. (Tr. at 98, 210.) Jonas meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2015. (Tr. at. 24.)

At the first step, the ALJ found that Jonas has not engaged in any substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date of January 1, 2011. (Tr. at 24.) At the second step, the ALJ concluded that Jonas has the following severe impairments: "bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome; positive rheumatological arthritis factor with mild disc disease and radiculopathy; mild acromioclavicular arthropathy of the shoulders; learning disorder; mood disorder and bipolar disorder; and obsessive-compulsive disorder." (Tr. at 24.) At the third step, the ALJ determined that Jonas does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals in severity any of the listed impairments. (Tr. at 24-26.)

Next, the ALJ reviewed the record to determine Jonas's residual function capacity ("RFC"). RFC assesses a claimant's maximum remaining capacity to perform work-related activities despite the physical and mental caused by the claimant's disability. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545(a)(1), 416.945(a)(1). In finding Jonas'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. §§ 404.1529, 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 Jonas and the doctors providing medical opinions; the supportability and consistency of the medical opinions with the entirety ...

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