United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Whalin, Magistrate Judge
Commissioner of Social Security denied Theresa Ann
Bartolomei's (“Bartolomei”) application for
supplemental security income benefits. Bartolomei seeks
judicial review of the Commissioner's decision pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (DN 1). Both Bartolomei (DN 17)
and the Commissioner (DN 22) 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 16).
Bartolomei is 26-years old (Tr. 37), completed the eighth
grade (Tr. 38), and lives with her six-year-old son, her
mother, and her brother in Magnolia, Kentucky. (Tr. 45-46).
Bartolomei has never performed substantial gainful employment
and believes she cannot work because of her paranoia about
leaving the house, her anger problems, and pain in her neck
and back. (Tr. 40). Bartolomei testified that her depression
and lower back pain require that she frequently lie down
during the day. (Tr. 48). When she is not lying down,
Bartolomei tries to help her son read books and complete his
homework, cooks dinner, and watches movies. (Tr. 49).
applied for supplemental security income benefits
(“SSI”) under Title XVI, claiming that she became
disabled on March 12, 2012, (Tr. 127) as a result of neck and
back pain from a car accident on March 12, 2012, migraines,
and leg, ankle, and knee pain. (Tr. 145). Her application was
denied initially and again on reconsideration. (Tr. 70, 88).
Administrative Law Judge Michael Nichols (“ALJ
Nichols”) conducted a hearing in Louisville, Kentucky,
on July 1, 2015. (Tr. 32-33). Bartolomei attended the hearing
with her attorney. (Id.). Gail Franklin, an
impartial vocational expert testified at the hearing.
(Id.). ALJ Nichols issued an unfavorable decision on
November 17, 2015. (Tr. 26).
Nichols 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, Bartolomei has
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her
application date, May 16, 2013. (Tr. 19). Second, Bartolomei
has the severe impairments of “bipolar disorder versus
mood disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, borderline
intellectual functioning and headaches[.]”
(Id.). Third, none of Bartolomei's impairments
or combination of impairments meets or medically equals the
severity of a listed impairment from 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404,
Subpt. P, App'x 1. (Tr. 20). Fourth, Bartolomei has the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
“a full range of work at all exertional levels”
with the following nonexertional limitations:
Seizure precautions should be observed. The claimant is
limited to simple tasks. The claimant is limited to work that
is not fast paced or quota driven. The claimant should not
engage in work that requires interaction with the public. The
claimant is limited to occasional interaction with coworkers
(Tr. 21). Additionally, Bartolomei has no past relevant work.
(Tr. 25). Fifth and finally, considering Bartolomei's
age, education, work experience, and residual functional
capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in
the national economy that she can perform. (Id.).
appealed ALJ Nichols' decision. (Tr. 12). The Appeals
Council declined review. (Tr. 1). At that point, the denial
became the final decision of the Commissioner, and Bartolomei
appealed to this Court. (DN 1).
Standard of Review
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).
challenges ALJ Nichols' decision in four respects, which