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Peggs v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

April 19, 2017

DEWEY L. PEGGS PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          David L. Bunning United States District Judge

         Plaintiff 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 the Commissioner.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On September 26, 2013, Plaintiff Dewey Peggs applied for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), alleging disability beginning on February 1, 2013. (Tr. 129, 261). Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that he is unable to work due to degenerative disc disease, carpal tunnel, numbness in arms and hands, hip pain, hearing loss, and memory loss. (Tr. 290).

         Plaintiff's application was denied initially and again on reconsideration. (Tr. 185, 186). At Plaintiff's request, an administrative hearing was conducted on August 3, 2015, before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Diana Erickson. (Tr. 141-173). On August 28, 2015, ALJ Erickson ruled that Plaintiff was not entitled to disability benefits. (Tr. 126-140). This decision became final when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on September 20, 2016. (Tr. 1-7). Plaintiff filed the instant action on October 27, 2016. (Doc. # 2). The matter has culminated in cross-motions for summary judgment, which are now ripe for adjudication. (Docs. # 11 and 13).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Overview of the Process

         Judicial 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).

         To 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).

         B. The ALJ's Determination

         At Step One, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date of February 1, 2013. (Tr. 131). At Step Two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease and bulging of the lumbar spine. (Tr. 131). 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. (Tr. 132).

         At Step Four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff possesses the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), but that he “can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; can frequently climb stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl; and should avoid concentrated exposure to noise and vibration.” (Tr. 132). Based upon this RFC, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not able to perform past relevant work. (Tr. 135). 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. 135-36). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from the alleged onset date through the date of the decision. (Tr. 136).

         C. Analysis

         Plaintiff alleges three errors in the hearing decision and asks this Court to reverse the disability determination. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in failing to give greater weight to Dr. Dye's medical source statement, that the ALJ erred in failing to give great consideration to Plaintiff's own testimony and erroneously attempted to erode his ...


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