United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division
MEMORANDUM, OPINION, AND ORDER
Brent Brennenstuhl United States Magistrate Judge.
the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Patricia Sue Hernandez
(“Plaintiff”) seeking judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Both the Plaintiff (DN 13) and Defendant (DN
16) have filed a Fact and Law Summary.
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, the parties
have consented to the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge conducting all further proceedings in this case,
including issuance of a memorandum opinion and entry of
judgment, with direct review by the Sixth Circuit Court of
Appeals in the event an appeal is filed (DN 10). By Order
entered July 26, 2016, (DN 11), the parties were notified
that oral arguments would not be held unless a written
request was filed and granted. No such request was filed.
protectively filed applications for Disability Insurance
Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on July 24, 2012.
(Tr. 313-17, 318-26). Plaintiff alleged that she became
disabled on March 15, 2009 (Tr. 313, 318), as a result of
Degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, scoliosis, back
pain, neck pain, problems with left leg, numbness, tingling,
poor reflex, insomnia, depression, anxiety, poor memory,
focus, and concentration, very poor balance, joint pain,
hands and arms (Tr. 371). Administrative Law Judge John R.
Price (“ALJ”) conducted a video hearing on August
15, 2014. The ALJ presided over the hearing remotely from
Louisville, Kentucky, and Plaintiff was present in Bowling
Green, Kentucky. Plaintiff was represented by Charles Dale
Burchett. Also present and testifying was Sharon B. Lane, a
decision dated September 25, 2014, the ALJ evaluated this
adult disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential
evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr.
68-85). At the first step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 15, 2009,
the alleged onset date (Tr. 73). At the second step, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff's major depressive disorder and
minimal degenerative disc disease are “severe”
impairments within the meaning of the regulations
(Id.). At the third step, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed
impairments in Appendix 1 (Tr. 74-75).
fourth step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work, except she should
have a sit/stand option in thirty minute intervals with a
minute or two to change positions (Tr. 75). Additionally, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff can stand and walk for four hours in
an eight hour day and sit for six (Id.). She can use
a cane to walk, should not climb or crawl, but can stoop,
kneel, and crouch occasionally (Id.). She should
avoid concentrated humidity, vibrations, dust, gas, fumes,
and other pulmonary irritants (Id.). She should
avoid heights and dangerous machinery and cannot operate
commercial driving equipment. Moreover, she should perform
low stress work with no fast-paced production quotas. Her
work should be simple, one or two step tasks that are
non-detailed with little change in daily routine. Finally,
she should have only superficial contact with others
(Id.). Relying on testimony from the vocational
expert, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable to perform any
of her past relevant work as a security guard, waitress,
cashier, machine operator, corrections officer, or baker (Tr.
proceeded to the fifth step where he considered
Plaintiff's residual functional capacity, age, education,
and past work experience as well as testimony from the
vocational expert (Tr. 80). The ALJ found that Plaintiff is
capable of performing a significant number of jobs that exist
in the national economy (Id.). Therefore, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a
“disability, ” as defined in the Social Security
Act, from March 15, 2009 through the date of the decision
timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the
ALJ's decision (Tr. 65-67). The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision
by the Court is limited to determining whether the findings
set forth in the final decision of the Commissioner are
supported by “substantial evidence, ” 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Cotton v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 692, 695
(6th Cir. 1993); Wyatt v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 974 F.2d 680, 683 (6th Cir. 1992), and whether
the correct legal standards were applied. Landsaw v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 803 F.2d 211,
213 (6th Cir. 1986). “Substantial evidence exists when
a reasonable mind could accept the evidence as adequate to
support the challenged conclusion, even if that evidence
could support a decision the other way.”
Cotton, 2 F.3d at 695 (quoting Casey v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 987 F.2d 1230,
1233 (6th Cir. 1993)). In reviewing a case for substantial
evidence, the Court “may not try the case de
novo, nor resolve conflicts in evidence, nor decide
questions of credibility.” Cohen v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 964 F.2d 524, 528 (6th Cir.
1992) (quoting Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387
(6th Cir. 1984)).
previously mentioned, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision
(Tr. 1-3). At that point, the ALJ's decision became the
final decision of the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.955(b), 404.981, 422.210(a); see 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(h) (finality of the Commissioner's decision).
Thus, the Court will be reviewing the decision of the ALJ,
not the Appeals Council, and the evidence that was in the
administrative record when the ALJ rendered the decision. 42
U.S.C. § 405(g); 20 ...