United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London
MEMORANDUM OPINION & 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 and the parties' dispositive motions, and for
the reasons set forth herein, hereby affirms the decision of
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
January 22, 2013, Plaintiff Katina Michelle Smith applied for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), alleging
disability beginning on October 15, 2010. (Tr. 22, 233).
Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that she is unable to work
due to knee problems, nerves, asthma, and high blood
pressure. (Tr. 237).
application was denied initially and again on
reconsideration. (Tr. 119, 129). At Plaintiff's request,
an administrative hearing was conducted on June 2, 2015,
before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Marjorie
Panter. (Tr. 46-86). On July 27, 2015, ALJ Panter ruled that
Plaintiff was not entitled to disability benefits. (Tr.
19-45). This decision became final when the Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review on July 11, 2016.
(Tr. 1-7). Plaintiff filed the instant action on September 6,
2016. (Doc. # 1). The matter has culminated in cross-motions
for summary judgment, which are now ripe for adjudication.
(Docs. # 7 and 10).
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
Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 729 (6th Cir. 2007).
“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.” Cutlip
v. Sec'y Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286
(6th Cir. 1994). Courts are not to conduct a de novo
review, resolve conflicts in the evidence, or make
credibility determinations. Id. Rather, the court is
required to affirm the Commissioner's decision, as long
as it is supported by substantial evidence, even if it might
have decided the case differently. Her v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 203 F.3d 388, 389-90 (6th Cir. 1999). If
supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's
findings must be affirmed, even if there is evidence favoring
Plaintiff's side. Listenbee v. Sec'y of Health
& Human Servs., 846 F.2d 345, 349 (6th Cir. 1988).
Similarly, an administrative decision is not subject to
reversal merely because substantial evidence would have
supported the opposite conclusion. Smith v. Chater,
99 F.3d 780, 781-82 (6th Cir. 1996).
determine disability, the ALJ conducts a five-step analysis.
Step One considers whether the claimant can still perform
substantial gainful activity; Step Two, whether any of the
claimant's impairments, alone or in combination, are
“severe;” Step Three, whether the impairments
meet or equal a listing in the Listing of Impairments; Step
Four, whether the claimant can still perform her past
relevant work; and Step Five, whether a significant number of
other jobs exist in the national economy that the claimant
can perform. As to the last step, the burden of proof shifts
from the claimant to the Commissioner to identify “jobs
in the economy that accommodate [Plaintiff's] residual
functional capacity.” See Jones v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003); see
also Preslar v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.,
14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994).
The ALJ's Determination
One, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not engage in
substantial gainful activity from her alleged onset date of
October 15, 2010 through her date last insured, December 31,
2014. (Tr. 24). At Step Two, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: knee problem
(disorder of muscle, ligament, and fascia), asthma, anxiety,
and depression. (Tr. 24). At Step Three, 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 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
Four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff possesses the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary
work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a), with the
[The claimant] is limited to work requiring no operation of
foot controls using the left lower extremity; no more than
occasional climbing of ramps or stairs; no climbing of
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; no more than frequent bending
or more than occasional kneeling, crouching, or crawling. The
claimant should avoid concentrated exposure to wetness, dust,
odors, fumes, or pulmonary irritants. The claimant is limited
to occasional contact with supervisors, coworkers, and the
public, and workplace changes should occur only occasionally
and be introduced gradually.
(Tr. 26-27). Based upon this RFC, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff was not able to perform past relevant work. (Tr.
38). Accordingly, the ALJ proceeded to Step Five, and found
that considering Plaintiff's age, education, work
experience, and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in
the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. (Tr.
38-39). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not
under a disability, as ...