United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
GREGORY S. GREEN, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
B. Russell, Senior Judge
S. Green filed this lawsuit against the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration. Green challenges the
Commissioner's decision to deny him disability insurance
benefits. For following reasons, the Commissioner's
decision is AFFIRMED, and Green's action is DISMISSED
January 2013, Green applied for disability insurance
benefits. [A.R. at 165.] Originally, he alleged disability
beginning on February 6, 2012. [Id.] He later
amended his claim to allege disability beginning on November
7, 2013. [Id. at 184.] The Commissioner denied
Green's claims on initial review and on reconsideration.
[Id. at 88, 116.] Green requested a hearing before
an administrative law judge. [Id. at 120.] On July
14, 2014, Green appeared, with counsel, at a hearing before
an ALJ. [Id. at 30.] Both Green and Sharon B. Lane,
a vocational expert, testified. [Id. at 34-72.]
denied Green's claim. [Id. at 11.] Using the
traditional five-step evaluation for disability benefits,
see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4), the ALJ made
the following findings. First, the ALJ found that Green had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 7,
2013. [Id. at 16.] Second, Green has several severe
impairments, including “degenerative joint disease of
the knees, shoulders, right foot, right ankle, hands and
wrists; bursitis of the hips; degenerative joint
disease/tendonitis of the elbows; history of carpal tunnel
syndrome; degenerative disc disease of the cervical and
lumbar spine and sleep apnea.” [Id. (citing 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(c)).] Third, the ALJ found that
Green's impairments do not meet or equal one of the
Commissioner's recognized impairments. [Id. at
18.] Fourth, the ALJ found that Green has the residual
functional capacity to perform sedentary work. [Id.
at 19-20.] Having found Green capable of performing past
relevant work as a human resource specialist, the ALJ did not
reach the fifth step, but instead determined that Green is
not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.
[Id. at 24-25.]
Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's decision.
[Id. at 1.] Accordingly, the ALJ's denial became
the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security.
Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 378 F.3d 541,
543-44 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing Miles v. Chater, 84
F.3d 1397, 1399 (11th Cir. 1996)). Pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), Green brought this action to obtain judicial
review of the Commissioner's decision. [See R. 1
(Complaint).] He asks the Court to reverse the ALJ's
decision. [See R. 13 (Motion for Summary Judgment).]
The Commissioner opposes that motion. [See R. 18
review of the Commissioner's determination is
deferential. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Blakley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399,
405 (6th Cir. 2009). The scope of that inquiry is limited to
(1) “whether the findings of the ALJ are supported by
substantial evidence” and (2) “whether the ALJ
applied the correct legal standards.” Miller v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 811 F.3d 825, 833 (6th Cir.
2016) (quoting Blakley, 581 F.3d at 405-06).
“Substantial evidence” means “such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Lindsley v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 560 F.3d 601, 604 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)).
Even if supported by substantial evidence, however, “a
decision of the Commissioner will not be upheld where the
[Social Security Administration] fails to follow its own
regulations and where that error prejudices a claimant on the
merits or deprives the claimant of a substantial
right.” Rabbers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
582 F.3d 647, 651 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Bowen v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 478 F.3d 742, 746 (6th Cir.
previewed above, the Commissioner evaluates whether a
claimant is disabled through a sequential five-step process.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(1), (4); see
also Sullivan v. Finkelstein, 496 U.S. 617, 620 (1990).
The claimant has the burden of proof during the first four of
those steps. Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336
F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). If the claimant meets the
burden at step four, the burden shifts to the Commissioner.
Rabbers, 582 F.3d at 652. Step four is at issue in
the ALJ considers the claimant's residual functional
capacity and past relevant work. See 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv). Residual functional capacity is
the claimant's “remaining capacity for work once
[his] limitations have been taken into account.”
Webb v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 368 F.3d 629, 632
(6th Cir. 2004) (quoting Howard v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 276 F.3d 235, 240 (6th Cir. 2002)). In determining
whether a claimant can perform his past relevant work, the
Commissioner may consult a vocational expert who “may
offer relevant evidence within his or her expertise or
knowledge concerning the physical and mental demands of a
claimant's past relevant work, either as the claimant
actually performed it or as generally performed in the
national economy.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1560(b)(2). It
is the claimant's burden to cross-examine a vocational
expert. See McClanahan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
474 F.3d 830, 837 (6th Cir. 2006). Once a vocational expert
testifies that there is no conflict between the
Dictionary of Occupational Titles and the vocational
expert's opinion, the ALJ has no duty to cross-examine
the vocational expert any further. Lindsley, 560
F.3d at 606.
case, Green objects to the ALJ's step-four findings. [R.
13-1 at 2 (Memorandum in Support).] He raises three
arguments. [Id. at 2-8.] The Court will address each
begin, Green takes issue with the ALJ's finding that he
is capable of performing his past relevant work as a human
resource specialist as that job is “generally performed
in the national economy, ” instead of treating his
position as a “composite job.” [Id. at
3-5.] A “composite job” is a job that has
“significant elements of two or more occupations and,
as such, have no counterpart” in the Dictionary of
Occupational Titles. SSR 82-61, 1982 WL 31387, at *2
(Jan. 1, 1982). Green argues that the ALJ may not, per the
Commissioner's guidance, deny a claim at step four by
finding that a claimant remains capable of performing a
composite job ...