Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Pierce v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

September 29, 2017

CHARLES J. PIERCE, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Colin Lindsay, Magistrate Judge United States District Court.

         Before 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 Law Summary.

         The 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.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pierce 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.)

         On 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 following findings.

         1. Pierce met the insured requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2016. (Id. at 54.)

         2. Pierce has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 27, 2011, the alleged onset date. (Id.)

         3. Pierce has the following medically determinable impairments: chronic back pain, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, low intelligence, depression, and anxiety. (Id.)

         4. 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.)

         5. 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.)

         Pierce 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.

         II. DISCUSSION

         The 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).

         A. Standard of Review

         In 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).

         “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. 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.

         B. Five-Step Sequential Evaluation Process

         The 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. §§ ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.