United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. HOOD, SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-Motions
for Summary Judgment (DE 15, 17, 19) on Plaintiff's
appeal of the Acting Commissioner's denial of his
application for disability insurance benefits. The matter having
been fully briefed by the parties is now ripe for this
determining whether an individual is disabled, an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) uses a five step
1. An individual who is working and engaging in substantial
gainful activity is not disabled, regardless of the
claimant's medical condition.
2. An individual who is working but does not have a
“severe” impairment which significantly limits
his physical or mental ability to do basic work activities is
3. If an individual is not working and has a severe
impairment which “meets the duration requirement and is
listed in appendix 1 or equal to a listed
impairment(s)”, then he is disabled regardless of other
4. If a decision cannot be reached based on current work
activity and medical facts alone, and the claimant has a
severe impairment, then the Secretary reviews the
claimant's residual functional capacity and the physical
and mental demands of the claimant's previous work. If
the claimant is able to continue to do this previous work,
then he is not disabled.
5. If the claimant cannot do any work he did in the past
because of a severe impairment, then the Secretary considers
his residual functional capacity, age, education, and past
work experience to see if he can do other work. If he cannot,
the claimant is disabled.
Preslar v. Sec'y of Health & Hum. Servs., 14
F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994) (citing 20 C.F.R. §
April 2013, at the age of fifty-one, Plaintiff filed an
application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”), alleging disability beginning July 1,
2008 (Tr. 197-206). Hinkle has an eleventh grade education,
reads at a sixth grade level, and has no past relevant work.
This claim was initially denied on June 25, 2013, and upon
reconsideration on September 5, 2013. He requested a hearing,
which was held and at which he testified on January 7, 2015,
in Livonia, Michigan. Hinkle testified at the hearing, and
the ALJ ultimately determined that he had the severe
impairments of obesity, degenerative disc disease of the
lumbar spine, hypertension, and anxiety. After the hearing,
the ALJ submitted interrogatories to vocational expert
(“VE”) Michael E. Rosko. The ALJ asked the VE to
assume a hypothetical individual of Plaintiff's age,
education, and work experience with limitations the same as
those ultimately determined by the ALJ to be those of
Plaintiff (Tr. 284): “claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work . . . except the
claimant requires a sit/stand option allowing a change in
position every fifteen minutes; should never use ladder[, ]
scaffolds[, ] or ropes; should avoid walking on uneven
surfaces and should never use foot controls . . . [and is]
limited to simple unskilled work without concentration on
detail/precision task, multi-tasking, reading, computing,
calculating or problem solving; work in a non-public setting
with casual infrequent coworker contact and infrequent
introduced routine work changes accommodating a sixth grade
literacy level.” The VE stated that such an individual
could perform the unskilled light jobs of assembler,
packager, and sorter (Tr. 285). After receiving the
interrogatory responses, the ALJ proffered the evidence to
Plaintiff's attorney for the opportunity to comment on
the response, to submit additional questions to the
vocational expert, and to request a supplemental hearing (Tr.
287-88). Plaintiff's attorney did not respond (Tr. 27).
The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied
Plaintiff's claim in April 2015 (Tr. 24-46), and the
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review
(Tr. 1-6), making the ALJ's decision the final agency
decision for purposes of judicial review. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.1481, 422.210(a). This appeal followed. The
relevant aspects of the record evidence are discussed in
reviewing a decision made by the ALJ, the Court may not
“‘try the case de novo, resolve
conflicts in evidence, or decide questions of
credibility.'” Ulman v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 693 F.3d 709, 713 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting
Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007)).
“The ALJ's findings are conclusive as long as they
are supported by substantial evidence.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Foster v. Halter, 279 F.3d 348, 353
(6th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted). Substantial evidence
“‘means such relevant evidence as a ...