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Thacker v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Frankfort Division

June 5, 2015

JOANIE CHEAK THACKER, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

JOSEPH M. HOOD, District Judge.

Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final administrative decision by the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), finding that she was not disabled within the definitions set out in 42 U.S.C. § 416(i) and § 423(d). Both parties, with Plaintiff proceeding pro se, have filed cross motions for Summary Judgement within this Court [DE 7, 8]. Upon review of the record, the Court grants the motion of the Defendant and denies the motion of the Plaintiff.

I. LEGAL FRAMEWORK

A. Standard of Review

The duty of the Commissioner in Social Security cases is to determine whether the plaintiff is disabled and, therefore, entitled to benefits under the Social Security Act. Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007). Once a final administrative decision has been rendered, judicial review in a district court of the United States is the parties' only avenue of relief from the decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). On appeal, this Court only inquires into whether the ALJ's findings were supported by substantial evidence, and whether the ALJ used proper legal standards. Id.; Rogers, 486 F.3d at 241. "Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994).

B. The Law of Social Security Determinations

When considering whether a claimant is disabled and eligible for benefits, ALJ's complete a five-step, sequential evaluation of the claimant:

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)); see also Oliver v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 415 F.Appx. 681, 682 (6th Cir. 2011). During the first four steps of the analysis, the burden lies with the plaintiff to establish her disability. Oliver, 415 F.Appx. at 683. If ...


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