United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. Bunning, United States District Judge.
brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to
obtain judicial review of an administrative decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security. The Court, having reviewed
the record, will affirm the Commissioner's decision, as
it is supported by substantial evidence.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
September 3, 2013, Plaintiff Joe Warner filed an application
for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and
supplemental security income benefits (“SSI”),
alleging disability beginning on February 25, 2013. (Tr.
194-198, 199-206). Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that he
was limited in his ability to work due to: (1) a bulging disc
in his neck, bone spurs, and numbness in his arms; (2)
shoulder pain; and (3) rheumatoid arthritis. (Tr. 228).
claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr.
97-106, 107-119). At Plaintiff's request, an
administrative hearing was conducted on May 11, 2015, before
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Bonnie
Kittinger. (Tr. 51-86). On December 4, 2015, ALJ Kittinger
ruled that Plaintiff was not entitled to benefits. (Tr.
10-37). This decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied review on
December 29, 2016. (Tr. 1-8).
February 22, 2017, Plaintiff filed the instant action. (Doc.
# 1). This matter has culminated in cross-motions for summary
judgment, which are now ripe for the Court's review.
(Docs. # 10 and 12).
Overview of the Process
review of the Commissioner's decision is restricted to
determining whether it is supported by substantial evidence
and was made pursuant to proper legal standards. See
Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25
F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994). “Substantial
evidence” is defined as “more than a scintilla of
evidence but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Id. Courts are not to
conduct a de novo review, resolve conflicts in the
evidence, or make credibility determinations. Id.
Rather, the Court must affirm the Commissioner's
decision, provided it is supported by substantial evidence,
even if the Court might have decided the case differently.
See Her v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 203 F.3d 388,
389-90 (6th Cir. 1999). If supported by substantial evidence,
the Commissioner's findings must be affirmed, even if
there is evidence favoring Plaintiff's side.
Listenbee v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.,
846 F.2d 345, 349 (6th Cir. 1988). Similarly, an
administrative decision is not subject to reversal merely
because substantial evidence would have supported the
opposite conclusion. Smith v. Chater, 99 F.3d 780,
781-82 (6th Cir. 1996).
ALJ, in determining disability, conducts a five-step
analysis. Step One considers whether the claimant is still
performing substantial gainful activity; Step Two, whether
any of the claimant's impairments are
“severe”; Step Three, whether the impairments
meet or equal a listing in the Listing of Impairments; Step
Four, whether the claimant can still perform his past
relevant work; and Step Five, whether significant numbers of
other jobs exist in the national economy which the claimant
can perform. As to the last step, the burden of proof shifts
from the claimant to the Commissioner. See Jones v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir.
2003); Preslar v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994).
The ALJ's Determination
One, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity from his alleged onset date,
February 25, 2013, through his date last insured. (Tr. 15).
At Step Two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had two severe
impairments: degenerative disc disease and
inflammatory/rheumatoid arthritis. (Tr. 15). The ALJ also
determined that Plaintiff had the following non-severe,
minimally limiting, impairments: hypertension; a
sleep-related breathing disorder; obesity; and periodic upper
extremity numbness and pain. (Tr. 15). At Step Three, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that “meets or medically
equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1." (Tr.
17). Specifically, the ALJ considered Listing 1.04A
and found that the evidence does not show that the Plaintiff
“has experienced a spinal disorder resulting in a
compromise of a nerve root or the spinal cord, with nerve
root compression, spinal arachnoiditis, or spinal stenosis
with accompanying ineffective ambulation.” (Tr. 17).
The ALJ also considered Listing 14.09 and found that the
evidence presented in support of allegations of
inflammatory/rheumatoid arthritis did not show any of the
listed symptoms. (Tr. 17).
Four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light
work, as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), with the
exertional and non-exertional limitations as follows:
[T]he claimant can lift and carry twenty pounds occasionally,
and ten pounds frequently. He can stand/walk six hours, and
sit at least six hours, out of an eight-hour workday, and sit
a total of six hours in an eight-hour workday. He
occasionally can climb ramps and stairs, stoop, kneel,
crouch, and crawl. He should not climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds. He should avoid concentrated ...