United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L Bunning United States District Judge.
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. The Court, having reviewed
the record, will affirm the Commissioner's decision, as
it is supported by substantial evidence.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
24, 2013, Plaintiff Danny Ray Couch protectively filed his
application for disability insurance benefits, alleging
disability as of June 21, 2013. (Tr. 136-42). Plaintiff's
claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. 58-86
and 68-76). On January 27, 2015, Administrative Law Judge
Sheila Lowther conducted an administrative hearing at
Plaintiff's request. (Tr. 28-57). ALJ Lowther ruled that
Plaintiff was not entitled to benefits on April 10, 2015.
(Tr. 13-27). This decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied review on
September 8, 2015. (Tr. 2-7).
November 3, 2015, Plaintiff filed the instant action. (Doc. #
1). This matter has culminated in cross motions for summary
judgment, which are now ripe for the Court's review.
(Docs. # 9 and 10).
Overview of the Process
review of the Commissioner's decision is restricted to
determining whether it is supported by substantial evidence
and was made pursuant to proper legal standards. See
Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25
F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994). “Substantial
evidence” is defined as “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.” Id. Courts are not to
conduct a de novo review, resolve conflicts in the
evidence, or make credibility determinations. Id.
Rather, we are to affirm the Commissioner's decision,
provided it is supported by substantial evidence, even if we
might have decided the case differently. See Her v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 203 F.3d 388, 389-90 (6th Cir.
ALJ, in determining disability, conducts a five-step
analysis. Step 1 considers whether the claimant is still
performing substantial gainful activity; Step 2, whether any
of the claimant's impairments are “severe”;
Step 3, whether the impairments meet or equal a listing in
the Listing of Impairments; Step 4, whether the claimant can
still perform his past relevant work; and Step 5, whether
significant numbers of other jobs exist in the national
economy which the claimant can perform. As to the last step,
the burden of proof shifts from the claimant to the
Commissioner. See Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003); Preslar v. Sec'y
of Health & Human Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th
The ALJ's Determination
1, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not engage in substantial
gainful activity from his alleged onset date (June 21, 2013)
through his date last insured. (Tr. 18). At Step 2, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments through the date last insured: (1) history of
right ankle sprain; (2) mild degenerative disc disease of the
lumbar spine; (3) history of right shoulder injury; and (4)
3, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff does not have an
impairment or combination of impairments listed in, or
medically equal to, an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 18-19). Specifically, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff's spinal impairments did not
meet the requirements of Listing 1.04 (disorders of the
spine), or Listing 1.02 A or B (major dysfunction of a
joint). (Id.). In reaching this conclusion, the ALJ
noted that the record contained no evidence of nerve root
compression, spinal arachnoiditis, or lumbar spinal stenosis
with accompanying ineffective ambulation, nor problems with
ambulation or involvement of a major joint in each upper
extremity. (Id.). The ALJ also noted that while
obesity may combine with other impairments to increase the
severity or functional limitation of other impairments, the
record in this case did not provide support for such a
4, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium
work, as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(c), except that
he can “stand and walk six hours of an eight hour day;
sit six hours of an eight hour day; and frequently reach and
handle with the right arm.” (Id.). The ALJ
further found that Plaintiff was able to perform past
relevant work as a tipple supervisor. (Tr. 23).
the ALJ did not proceeded to the final step of the sequential
evaluation. (Id.). Based on the testimony of the VE
and Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was
capable of performing his past relevant work, and thus
concluded that he was not ...