United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky at Louisville
DAVE WHALIN, District Judge.
Plaintiff Karen Maddox has filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g) to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security that denied her applications for disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI). Maddox applied for DIB and SSI on Feb. 23, 2012, alleging that she was disabled as of Feb. 17, 2012, due to ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, diverticulitis and high blood pressure (Tr. 221, 225, 247). The Commissioner denied Maddox's claims on initial consideration (Tr. 107) and on reconsideration (Tr. 133). Maddox requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) (Tr. 77-78).
ALJ Patrick Kimberlin conducted a hearing in Louisville, Kentucky, on Nov. 26, 2013 (Tr. 79-106). Maddox attended with her attorney, Micah Daniels (Tr. 79). Maddox and vocational expert (VE) Gail Franklin testified at the hearing (Tr. 83-101, 102-106). Following the conclusion of the hearing, ALJ Kimberlin entered a hearing decision on Jan. 15, 2014, that found Maddox is not disabled for the purposes of the Social Security Act (Tr. 49-61).
In his adverse decision, ALJ Kimberlin made the following findings:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through Dec. 31, 2017.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since Feb. 17, 2012, the alleged onset date (20 C.F.R. 404.1571, et seq. and 416.971, et seq. ).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: cervical degenerative disk disease; right knee osteoarthritis; colitis, and sinusitis (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except occasional climbing of ramps and ladders, occasional stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling, but no climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The claimant is limited to frequent bilateral overhead reaching. The claimant should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold, humidity, and hazards and avoid even moderate exposure to vibration.
6. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work as a secretary and her past relevant work as a medical transcriber. This work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the claimant's residual functional capacity (20 C.F.R. 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from Feb. 17, 2012, through the date of this decision (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(f) and 416.920(f)).
Maddox sought review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council (Tr. 45). The Appeals Council denied her request for review, finding no reason under the Rules to review ALJ Kimberlin's decision (Tr. 1-6). The present lawsuit followed.
The Five-Step Sequential Evaluation Process.
Disability is defined by law as being the inability to do substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death, or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. See, 20 CFR §§ 404.1505, 416.905(a). To determine whether a claimant for DIB or SSI benefits satisfies such definition, a 5-step evaluation process has been developed. 20 CFR §§ 404.1520, 916.920(a). At step 1, the Commissioner must determine whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity; if so, the Commissioner will ...