United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
CHARLES J. PIERCE, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Lindsay, Magistrate Judge United States District Court.
the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of plaintiff Charles J.
Pierce (“Pierce”) filed on February 12, 2016. In
his complaint, Pierce seeks judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“the
Commissioner”). See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
(2012) (“Any individual, after any final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security . . . may obtain a review
of such decision by a civil action commenced within sixty
days after the mailing to him of notice of such decision . .
. .”). Pierce filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (DN
13) and supporting memorandum (DN 14), as well as a Fact and
Law Summary (DN 15). The Commissioner also filed a Fact and
parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a magistrate
judge to enter judgment in this case with direct review by
the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in the event an appeal is
filed (See DN 8.) Therefore, this matter is ripe for
review. For the reasons set forth below, the final decision
of the Commissioner is affirmed.
filed an application for disability and disability insurance
benefits on July 3, 2012, alleging that he became disabled on
July 27, 2011. (Tr. 180, 197, 203.) Pierce subsequently filed
an application for supplemental social security benefits on
May 6, 2014, alleging the same disability onset date.
(Id. at 197.)
August 20, 2014, Administrative Law Judge Michael Nichols
(“the ALJ”) conducted a hearing on both
applications. (Id. at 87.) Pierce was present and
represented by counsel Chadwick Simpson. (Id. at
64.) William Harpool, a vocational expert, also testified at
the hearing. (Id.) In a decision dated October 3,
2014, the ALJ engaged in the five-step evaluation process
promulgated by the Commissioner to determine whether an
individual is disabled. In doing so, the ALJ made the
Pierce met the insured requirements of the Social Security
Act through December 31, 2016. (Id. at 54.)
Pierce has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since
July 27, 2011, the alleged onset date. (Id.)
Pierce has the following medically determinable impairments:
chronic back pain, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, low
intelligence, depression, and anxiety. (Id.)
Pierce does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that has significantly limited (or is expected to
significantly limit) the ability to perform basic
work-related activities for twelve consecutive months;
therefore, Pierce does not have a severe impairment or
combination of impairments. (Id.)
Pierce has not been under a disability, as defined in the
Social Security Act, from July 27, 2011, through the date of
the decision. (Id. at 58-59.)
timely requested an appeal to the Appeals Council on or about
November 25, 2014. (Id. at 42.) On December 14,
2015, the Appeals Council denied Pierce's request for
review. (Id. at 1.) At that point, the ALJ's
decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 422.210(a); see also 42
U.S.C. § 405(h) (discussing finality of the
Commissioner's decision). Pierce timely filed this action
on February 12, 2016.
Social Security Act authorizes payment of disability
insurance and supplemental social security benefits to
persons with disabilities. Social Security Act, Disability
Insurance Benefits, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-34 (2012);
Social Security Act, Supplemental Social Security Income, 42
U.S.C. §§ 1381-85 (2012). An individual shall be
considered disabled if “he is unable to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A);
see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a).
Standard of Review
conducting its review, the Court “may not try the case
de novo, nor resolve conflicts in evidence, nor
decide questions of credibility.” Garner v.
Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 745 F.2d 383, 387
(6th Cir. 1984) (citing Myers v. Richardson, 471
F.2d 1265 (6th Cir. 1972)). Rather, the Court's review is
limited to determining whether the findings set forth in the
final decision of the Commissioner are supported by
“substantial evidence” and that the correct legal
standards were applied. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Gayheart
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 710 F.3d 365, 374 (6th Cir.
2013); Cole v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 661 F.3d
931, 937 (6th Cir. 2011). If the answer is “yes,
” then the Court may not even inquire as to whether the
record could support a decision the other way. Smith v.
Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 893 F.2d 106, 108
(6th Cir. 1989).
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. Sec'y of Health and Human
Servs., 2 F.3d 692, 695 (6th Cir. 1993) (quoting
Casey v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 987
F.2d 1230, 1233 (6th Cir. 1993)) (internal quotation marks
omitted). Therefore, “[a] reviewing court will affirm
the Commissioner's decision if it is based on substantial
evidence, even if substantial evidence would also have
supported the opposite conclusion.” Gayheart,
710 F.3d at 374.
Five-Step Sequential Evaluation Process
Commissioner has promulgated regulations that set forth a
five-step sequential evaluation process that an ALJ must
follow in evaluating a disability claim. 20 C.F.R.