United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
K. CALDWELL, CHIEF JUDGE
matter is before the Court for consideration of cross-motions
for summary judgment. [DE 11 & 12]. The Plaintiff, April
Nicole Collins, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) to obtain judicial relief from an
administrative decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security denying her claim for Social Security Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). The Court, having
reviewed the record, will affirm the Commissioner's
decision as it is supported by substantial evidence and was
decided by the proper legal standards.
OVERVIEW OF THE PROCESS
Social Security Act and corresponding regulations provide
that the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) must
follow a five-step sequential process in determining whether
a claimant has a compensable disability. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4); see also Rabbers v. Comm'r
Soc. Sec. Admin., 582 F.3d 647, 652 (6th Cir. 2009)
(describing the administrative process). The five steps, in
summary, are as follows:
1) If the claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, the
claimant is not disabled.
2) If the claimant does not have a severe medically
determinable physical or mental impairment-i.e., an
impairment that significantly limits his or her physical or
mental ability to do basic work activities-the claimant is
3) If the claimant has a severe impairment(s) that meets or
equals one of the listings in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the
regulations and meets the duration requirement, the claimant
4) If the claimant's impairment does not prevent him or
her from doing his or her past relevant work, the claimant is
5) If the claimant can make an adjustment to other work, the
claimant is not disabled. If the claimant cannot make an
adjustment to other work, the claimant is disabled.
Rabbers, 582 F.3d at 652 (citing 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v), 404.1520(b)-(g)). If, at
any step in the process, the ALJ concludes that the claimant
is or is not disabled, the ALJ can then complete the
“determination or decision and [the ALJ] do[es] not go
on to the next step.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4).
burden is on the claimant to satisfy the first four steps of
the analysis. Kyle v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 609
F.3d 847, 855 (6th Cir. 2010) (citing Germany-Johnson v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 313 F. App'x 771, 774 (6th
Cir. 2008)). Thereafter, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner at step five to show “a significant number
of jobs in the economy that accommodate the claimant's
residual functional capacity (determined at step four) and
vocational profile.” Id. (internal citations
omitted); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(g)(1).
PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND AND THE ADMINISTRATIVE
March 13, 1977, April Collins was 33 years old when she
allegedly became disabled and 37 years old at the time of the
Commissioner's final decision that is now before this
Court. [TR 123]. She is married and lives with her husband
and daughter. [TR 42]. Collins graduated from high school and
completed one year of college before joining the workforce.
[TR 161]. In the past, she worked as a physical therapy
technician, a receptionist, a mail handler, a bank teller,
and a retail sales clerk. [TR 161]. She alleges disability
due to conditions related to her left knee, which include
lateral meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament tears,
anterior cruciate ligament and lateral meniscus transplants,
and a knee replacement. [TR 160].
filed her application for DIB on December 6, 2012, alleging
an onset date of October 11, 2010. [TR 49]. Her application
was denied initially on January 8, 2013, and again on
reconsideration on March 13, 2013. [TR 59, 60]. Collins then
filed a timely request for a hearing before an ALJ. [TR 85].
ALJ Todd Spangler conducted a hearing on March 22, 2013, in
Middlesboro, Kentucky. [TR 25]. Collins attended the hearing,
accompanied by her lawyer, at which she testified on her own
behalf. [TR 25]. Jo Ann Bullard, an impartial vocational
expert, also testified at the hearing. [TR 25]. Thereafter,
the ALJ issued a decision on June 5, 2014, denying benefits
to Collins. [TR 13].
applied the traditional five-step sequential analysis
promulgated by the Commissioner, see 20 C.F.R §
404.1520, and found as follows. First, the ALJ determined
that Collins had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since her alleged onset date of October 11, 2010. [TR 15].
Second, the ALJ classified Collins as suffering from a
chronic left anterior cruciate ligament tear, status post
left knee arthroplasty, arthroscopy and arthrocentesis, with
postoperative evidence of early osteoarthritis-all
constituting, when combined, “severe” impairments
as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). [TR 15]. Third,