United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, Pikeville
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
GREGORY F. VAN TATENHOVE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Plaintiff, Mr. Elmer Handshoe, brings this action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to obtain judicial review of an
administrative decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security, who denied Handshoe's claim for disability
insurance benefits. The Court, having reviewed the record and
for the reasons set forth herein, will DENY Mr.
Handshoe's Motion for Summary Judgment [R. 7] and will
GRANT the Commissioner's [R. 8.]
filed his application for benefits on October 1, 2012,
alleging disability beginning on November 10, 2011, due to
multiple physical impairments. A video-hearing was conducted
before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Michele
Kelley on May 15, 2015, presiding from Seven Fields,
Pennsylvania. [Tr. 10] At the hearing, Gina Baldwin, a
vocational expert, testified. [Tr. 41.]
was fifty-two years old as of the date of the hearing. [Tr.
61.] He has a GED and previously worked as a “blastman
assistant and a contract worker for a gas company, driving
trucks and doing odd jobs for his employer.” [R. 8 at
2.] Handshoe alleges disability due to a slew of physical
impairments. He complains of back pain; shoulder pain that
makes him unable to raise his shoulders above his head; acid
reflux; and stomach and bowel issues. [R. 7-1 at 2.]
evaluating a claim of disability, the ALJ conducts a
five-step analysis. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520. First, if a claimant is performing a
substantial gainful activity, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(b). Second, if a claimant does not have any
impairment or combination of impairments which significantly
limit his physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities, then he does not have a severe impairment and is
not “disabled” as defined by the regulations. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). Third, if a claimant's
impairments meet or equal one of the impairments listed in 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, he is
“disabled.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). Before
moving to the fourth step, the ALJ must use all the relevant
evidence in the record to determine the claimant's
residual functional capacity (RFC), which assesses an
individual's ability to perform certain physical and
mental work activities on a sustained basis despite any
impairments experienced by the individual. See 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(e); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545. Fourth,
the ALJ must determine whether the clamant has the RFC to
perform the requirements of his past relevant work, and if a
claimant's impairments do not prevent him from doing past
relevant work, he is not “disabled.” 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(e). The plaintiff has the ultimate burden of
proving compliance with the first four steps. Kyle v.
Comm'r Of Soc. Sec., 609 F.3d 847, 855 (6th Cir.
2010). Fifth, if a claimant's impairments (considering
his RFC, age, education, and past work) prevent him from
doing other work that exists in the national economy, then he
is “disabled.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f).
case, the ALJ issued his written decision on July 21, 2014.
[Tr. 10-18.] At Step 1, the ALJ found that Handshoe had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged
onset date of November 10, 2011. [Tr. 12.] At Step 2, the ALJ
found that Handshoe had the following severe impairments:
“chronic low back pain, bilateral shoulder internal
derangement, and gastroduodenitis.” [Id.]
Additional impairments were found to not be severe:
“right knee pain, hypertension, hyperlipidemia,
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), hiatal hernia, renal
cysts, renal stones, hepatic steatosis, and
pre-diabetes.” [Id.] At Step 3, the ALJ
concluded that Handshoe does not have an “impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and
404.1526), ” so the analysis continued to the next
step. [Tr. 14.] At Step 4, the ALJ concluded that Handshoe
had an RFC to “perform medium work
(lift/carry/push/pull 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds
frequently) as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) . . .”
[Tr. 14.] The ALJ noted the following specific limitations:
[H]e can stand/walk six hours total in an eight-hour workday;
can sit six hours total in an eight-hour workday; cannot
perform overhead reaching activities with either upper
extremity; and must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme
cold, humidity, vibration, and hazards (unprotected heights,
uneven surfaces, or dangerous machinery).
[Tr. 14.] With these limitations in mind, the ALJ determined
that Handshoe was not capable of performing any past,
relevant work. [Tr. 16.] Finally, at Step 5, the ALJ adopted
the opinion of the vocational expert, that there were a
significant number of jobs in the national economy that
Handshoe could perform. [Tr. 17.] As a result, the ALJ
concluded that Handshoe was not disabled. [Tr. 18.] The
Appeals Council found no reason for review. [Tr 1.] Handshoe
now seeks judicial review in this Court.
Court's review is limited to whether there is substantial
evidence in the record to support the ALJ's decision. 42
U.S.C. § 405(g); Wright v. Massanari, 321 F.3d
611, 614 (6th Cir. 2003); Shelman v. Heckler, 821
F.2d 316, 319-20 (6th Cir. 1987). “Substantial
evidence” is “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.” Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health &
Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994) (citing
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)).
The substantial evidence standard “presupposes that
there is a zone of choice within which [administrative]
decisionmakers can go either way, without interference by the
courts.” Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545
(6th Cir. 1986) (en banc) (quoting Baker v.
Heckler, 730 F.2d 1147, 1150 (8th Cir. 1984)).
determining the existence of substantial evidence, courts
must examine the record as a whole. Cutlip, 25 F.3d
at 286 (citing Kirk v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 667 F.2d 524, 535 (6th Cir. 1981), cert.
denied, 461 U.S. 957 (1983)). However, a reviewing court
may not conduct a de novo review, resolve conflicts
in the evidence, or make credibility determinations.
Ulman v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 693 F.3d 709, 713
(6th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted); see also Bradley v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 862 F.2d 1224,
1228 (6th Cir. 1988). Rather, if the Commissioner's
decision is supported by substantial evidence, it must be
affirmed even if the reviewing court would decide the matter
differently, and even if substantial evidence also supports
the opposite conclusion. See Ulman, 693 F.3d at 714;
Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007);
Her v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 203 F.3d 388, 389-90
(6th Cir. 1999).
argues that the Commissioner's decision “is not
based on substantial evidence as required by 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) and that he Commissioner erred as a matter of law in
determining that he is not entitled to DIB benefits for the
reasons set ...