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Taylor v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington

May 11, 2017

LISA TAYLOR 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 October 23, 2012, Plaintiff Lisa Taylor applied for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), alleging disability beginning on October 1, 2011. (Tr. 16, 167-68). Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that she is unable to work due to “chronic major depression” and “generalized anxiety and major chronic depression.” (Tr. 187).

         Plaintiff's application was denied initially and again on reconsideration. (Tr. 104, 109). At Plaintiff's request, an administrative hearing was conducted on July 23, 2015, before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Steven Collins. (Tr. 32-76). On September 24, 2015, ALJ Collins ruled that Plaintiff was not entitled to disability benefits. (Tr. 13-31). This decision became final when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on August 22, 2016. (Tr. 1-4). Plaintiff filed the instant action on October 14, 2016. (Doc. # 1). The matter has culminated in cross-motions for summary judgment, which are now ripe for adjudication. (Docs. # 10 and 12).

         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 had not engaged in substantial gainful activity from her alleged onset date of October 1, 2011 through her date last insured of March 31, 2014. (Tr. 18). At Step Two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: depression and anxiety disorder. (Tr. 18). 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. 19).

         At Step Four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff possesses the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations:

[Plaintiff] is limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks in a work environment free of fast-paced production requirements. Her work should involve only simple, work-related decisions with few, if any, workplace changes. She can have occasional contact with co-workers, supervisors, and the public.

(Tr. 21). Based upon this RFC, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not able to perform past relevant work. (Tr. 24). 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. 25). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not under a disability, as defined ...


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