United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division
DONALD R. HALEY PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Brent Brennenstuhl United States Magistrate Judge.
the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Donald R. Haley
(APlaintiff@) seeking judicial review of the final decision
of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both
the Plaintiff (DN 15) and Defendant (DN 18) 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 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
protectively filed an application for Supplemental Security
Income benefits on May 13, 2014 (Tr. 51, 195). Plaintiff
alleged that he became disabled on February 14, 2013, as a
result of an enlarged heart, bad right leg, high blood
pressure and depression (Tr. 51, 212). Administrative Law
Judge Richard E. Guida (AALJ@) conducted a video hearing from
Baltimore, Maryland, on May 18, 2015 (Tr. 51, 65-67).
Plaintiff and his attorney, Richard Burchett, participated
from a hearing room in Bowling Green, Kentucky (Tr. 51,
65-67). David Don couch also participated as a testifying
vocational expert (Tr. 51, 65-67).
decision dated July 1, 2015, the ALJ evaluated this adult
disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential
evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr.
51-60). At the first step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 13, 2014
the alleged onset date (Tr. 55). At the second step, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff has the following
“severe” impairments: “coronary artery
disease, cardio myopathy, degenerative joint disease, and
obesity” (Tr. 55). The ALJ also determined that
Plaintiff's medically determinable medical impairments of
depression and other affective disorders are
“non-severe” impairments within the meaning of
the regulations (Tr. 55-56). 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. 56).
fourth step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual
functional capacity to perform less than a full range of
light work (Tr. 57). More specifically, the ALJ found:
[C]laimant has the residual functional capacity to perform
light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except he can
frequently stoop. He can occasionally climb ramps and stairs
as well as occasionally Neil, crouch and crawl. He cannot use
ladders, ropes or scaffolds. He must avoid concentrated
exposure to temperature extremes, vibrations, fumes, odors,
and dusts, gases, poor ventilation and hazards.
(Tr. 57). Relying on testimony from the vocational expert,
the ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable to perform any past
relevant work (Tr. 59).
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. 59-60). The ALJ found that Plaintiff
is capable of performing a significant number of jobs that
exist in the national economy (Tr. 59-60). Therefore, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a
“disability, ” as defined in the Social Security
Act, from May 13, 2014 through the date of the decision, July
1, 2015 (Tr. 60).
timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the
ALJ's decision (Tr. 48). Additionally, Plaintiff
submitted new medical evidence in support of his request for
review (Tr. 7-45). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-5).
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. 1-5). 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 C.F.R. § 404.981; Cline v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 96 F.3d 146, 148 (6th Cir.
1996); Cotton v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 692, 695-696 (6th
Commissioner's Sequential Evaluation Process The Social
Security Act authorizes payment of Disability Insurance
Benefits and Supplemental Security Income to persons with
disabilities. 42 U.S.C. Â§' 401 et seq. (Title II
Disability Insurance Benefits), 1381 et seq. (Title XVI
Supplemental Security Income). The term
“disability” is defined as an
[I]nability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by
reason of any medically determinable physical or mental
impairment which can be expected to result in death or which
has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period
of not less than twelve (12) months.
42 U.S.C. Â§' 423(d)(1)(A) (Title II), 1382c(a)(3)(A)
(Title XVI); 20 C.F.R. '' 404.1505(a), 416.905(a);
Barnhart v. Walton, 535 U.S. 212, 214 (2002);
Abbott v. Sullivan, 905 F.2d 918, 923 (6th Cir.
Commissioner has promulgated regulations setting forth a
five-step sequential evaluation process for evaluating a
disability claim. See “Evaluation of
disability in general, ” 20 C.F.R. '' ...