United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Whalin, Magistrate Judge United States District Court
Commissioner of Social Security denied Reginald Riley's
application for disability insurance benefits. Riley seeks
judicial review of the Commissioner's decision pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both Riley (DN 16) and the
Commissioner (DN 19) have filed a Fact and Law Summary.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, the
parties have consented to the undersigned United States
Magistrate Judge conducting all further proceedings in this
case, including issuance of a memorandum opinion and entry of
judgment, with direct review by the Sixth Circuit Court of
Appeals in the event an appeal is filed. (DN 13).
Riley (“Riley”) is 48-years-old and lives with
his wife in Radcliff, Kentucky. (Tr. 36, 49). Until 2009,
Riley worked as an armored crewman for the U.S. Army at Fort
Knox. (Tr. 36). Three years later, Riley completed his
Bachelor's degree in Resource Management from Sullivan
University with hopes of finding work that would be efficient
for his medical conditions at that time. (Tr. 36-37, 64).
Ultimately, Riley felt he was “unable to do anything .
. . as far as any type of work, ” because he's in
pain “pretty much all of the time.” (Tr. 64).
Riley underwent left knee surgery in October of 2014 (Tr. 41)
and has been wearing back-braces, knee-braces, and orthotic
shoes for a number of years (Tr. 46, 50, 51). He has also
participated in one-on-one counseling for ongoing depression
since around 2010. (Tr. 47-48). Riley testified that he
doesn't have any hobbies and doesn't do much
socializing except with a few neighbors. (Tr. 58).
applied for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”)
under Title II claiming that he became disabled on August 9,
2014, as a result of short term memory loss, depression, foot
pain, leg pain, knee pain, migraines, hip pain, and sleep
apnea. (Tr. 192, 228). His application was denied initially
(Tr. 98) and on reconsideration (Tr. 115). On May 12, 2016,
Administrative Law Judge Candace A. McDaniel
(“ALJ”) conducted a hearing in Louisville,
Kentucky. (Tr. 31). Riley appeared in person and was
represented by counsel. (Id.). Gail Franklin, an
impartial vocational expert, also appeared at the hearing.
(Id.). The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on
July 11, 2016. (Tr. 26).
applied the traditional five-step sequential analysis
promulgated by the Commissioner, 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520;
Kyle v. Comm'r of Soc.Sec., 609 F.3d 847, 855
(6th Cir. 2010), and found as follows. First, Riley did not
engage in substantial activity during the period from his
alleged onset date of August 9, 2014, through his date last
insured of December 31, 2014. (Tr. 17). Second, Riley had the
severe impairments of “obesity, osteoarthritis of the
knees with right knee surgery, degenerative disc disease of
the lumbar spine, bilateral hallux valgus and degenerative
joint disease of the great toes, bilateral peas planus with
plantar fasciitis and spurs, and depression.”
(Id.). Third, none of Riley's impairments or
combination of impairments met or medically equaled the
severity of a listed impairment from 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404,
Subpt. P, App'x 1.
Fourth, Riley had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform sedentary work with the
he needs to use a cane for ambulation and he must be allowed
to alternate between a seated and standing position every 30
to 60 minutes taking 1 to 3 minutes to change positions
without leaving the workstation. He may not climb ladders,
ropes, scaffolds, or stairs, he may not kneel or crawl, but
he may occasionally stoop, crouch, and climb ramps. He may
not have concentrated exposure to vibrations, extremes of
cold, heat, wetness, or humidity, or dust, fumes, gases, and
other pulmonary irritants. He may not have any exposure to
hazards such as unprotected heights or operation of moving
machinery that cuts or grinds and that fails to stop with the
loss of human contact. He can understand and remember simple
and routine tasks and he can sustain attention and
concentration for such tasks in 2 hour segments. He can
interact appropriately with supervisors and coworkers but he
can tolerate only occasional public interaction. He can
tolerate routine changes in the work setting.
(Tr. 19-20). Additionally, Riley was unable to perform any
past relevant work through his date last insured. (Tr. 24).
Fifth and finally, considering Riley's age, education,
work experience, and RFC, there were jobs that existed in
significant numbers in the national economy that he could
have performed. (Tr. 25).
appealed the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 5-6) The Appeals
Council declined review. (Tr. 1). At that point, the denial
became the final decision of the Commissioner, and Riley
appealed to this Court. (DN 1).
reviewing the Administrative Law Judge's decision to deny
disability benefits, the Court may “not try the case de
novo, nor resolve conflicts in the evidence, nor decide
questions of credibility.” Cutlip v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir.
1994) (citations omitted). Instead, the Court's review of
the Administrative Law Judge's decision is limited to an
inquiry as to whether the Administrative Law Judge's
findings were supported by substantial evidence, 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Foster v. Halter, 279 F.3d 348, 353
(6th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted), and whether the
Administrative Law Judge employed the proper legal standards
in reaching her conclusion. See Landsaw v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 803 F.2d 211, 213 (6th Cir.
1986). Substantial evidence exists “when a reasonable
mind could accept the evidence as adequate to support the
challenged conclusion, even if that evidence could support a
decision the other way.” Cotton v. Sullivan, 2
F.3d 692, 695 (6th Cir. 1993).
Finding No. 5 Residual Functional Capacity
mounts three challenges to the ALJ's Finding No. 5, the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
determination. (DN 16-1, at pp. 12-20). The RFC finding is an
Administrative Law Judge's ultimate determination of
“the most a claimant can do” despite his physical
and mental limitations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.945(a)(1),
416.946. The Administrative Law Judge bases the RFC finding
on a review of the record as a whole, including a