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Canchola v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

December 14, 2016

JOSE CANCHOLA, Sr. ADMINISTRATOR FOR THE ESTATE OF CINDA R. CANCHOLA PLAINTIFF
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          H. Brent Brennenstuhl United States Magistrate Judge.

         BACKGROUND

         Before the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Cinda R. Canchola[1] (''Plaintiff'') seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both the Plaintiff (DN 18) and Defendant (DN 19) have filed a Fact and Law Summary.

         Pursuant 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 11). By Order entered August 22, 2016 (DN 12), the parties were notified that oral arguments would not be held unless a written request therefor was filed and granted. No such request was filed.

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         On October 18, 2012, Plaintiff filed applications for Disability Insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income payments (Tr. 12, 256-262). Plaintiff alleged that she became disabled on November 10, 2010 as a result of a mental breakdown, chronic anxiety, diabetes, diabetic neuropathy, and hypercalcenia (Tr. 12, 281). On May 26, 2015, Administrative Law Judge Richard E. Guida (''ALJ'') conducted a video hearing from Baltimore, Maryland, with Plaintiff and her counsel participating in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Also present and testifying was William H. Reed, Ph.D., a vocational expert.

         In a decision dated June 3, 2015, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's insured status expired on September 30, 2013 (Tr. 14). The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's adult disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr. 12-20). At the first step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 6, 2010, the alleged onset date (Tr. 14). At the second step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's COPD, diabetes, neuropathy, and obesity are ''severe'' impairments within the meaning of the regulations (Id.). The ALJ also determined that Plaintiff's mental impairment is a ''non-severe'' impairment within the meaning of the regulations (Tr. 14-16). 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 (Id.).

         At the fourth step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform less than a full range of light work because she can only perform postural activities; can never use ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; and must avoid concentrated exposure to vibrations, fumes, odors, dusts, gases, poor ventilation, and hazards (Tr. 16). Relying on testimony from the vocational expert, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable to perform any of her past relevant work (Tr. 18).

         The ALJ 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. 18-19). 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 November 6, 2010, through the date of the decision (Tr. 19).

         Plaintiff timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision (Tr. 7-8). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-4).

         CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

         Standard of Review

         Review 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)).

         As previously mentioned, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-4). 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 ...


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