United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington
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
December 14, 2011, Plaintiff Tonya Michele Hall protectively
filed her application for Disability Insurance Benefits,
alleging disability as of March 14, 2011. (Tr. 151-52).
Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and on
reconsideration. (Tr. 62-74 and 76-88). On December 17, 2013,
Administrative Law Judge Don Paris conducted an
administrative hearing at Plaintiff's request. (Tr.
26-61). ALJ Paris ruled that Plaintiff was not entitled to
benefits on January 31, 2014. (Tr. 8-25). This decision
became the final decision of the Commissioner when the
Appeals Council denied review on August 25, 2015. (Tr. 1-6).
October 20, 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. # 16 and 17).
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 through his date
last insured (March 14, 2011 through December 31, 2015). (Tr.
13). At Step 2, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the
following severe impairments through the date last insured:
status post motor vehicle accident resulting in right
fibular, tibia and acetabular fractures and left tibial,
femur, first and fifth metatarsal fractures. (Id.).
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. 15). Specifically, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff's impairments do not meet listing
1.02 (major dysfunction of a joint). (Id.). In
reaching this conclusion, the ALJ noted that while Plaintiff
has required several surgeries for her musculoskeletal
injuries, treatment records indicated that she was
“doing well, ambulating with and/or without an AFO
4, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary
work, as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a), with
“standing/walking 2 hours in a workday but requiring a
sit/stand option with no prolonged standing/walking in excess
of ½ an hour without interruption; sit 6 hours in an
8-hour workday; no pushing and/or pulling with foot controls;
occasionally climbing ramps/stairs; never climbing
ladders/ropes; no more than frequent balancing, occasional
stooping, kneeling, crouching, or crawling; and avoidance of
all exposure to full-body vibration and all hazards such as
unprotected heights and dangerous machinery.”
(Id.). The ALJ further found that Plaintiff was
unable to perform past relevant work as an administrative
inventory clerk or work in data entry. (Tr. 18).
the ALJ proceeded to the final step of the sequential
evaluation. At Step 5, the ALJ found that there are a
significant number of jobs in the national economy that
Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 18-19). The ALJ based this
conclusion on testimony from a vocational expert
(“VE”), in response to a hypothetical question
assuming an individual of Plaintiff's age, education,
work experience, and RFC. (Id.). The VE testified
that a hypothetical individual with Plaintiff's
vocational profile and RFC could find sedentary work as an
order clerk (223, 000 nationally/2, 000 Kentucky), in bench
assembly (352, 000 nationally, 2, 400 Kentucky), or
inspecting (301, 000 nationally/2, 100 Kentucky). (Tr. 19).
Based on the testimony of the VE and Plaintiff's age,
education, work ...