United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
Gregory F. Van Tatenhove, United States District Judge.
Penny seeks judicial review of an administrative decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security, which denied Penny's
claim for supplemental security income benefits. Mr. Penny
brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
alleging various errors on the part of the ALJ considering
the matter. The Court, having reviewed the record and for the
reasons set forth herein, will DENY Mr. Penny's Motion
for Summary Judgment [R. 10] and will GRANT the
Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment [R. 12.]
Richard Penny filed an application for Title XVI supplemental
security income (SSI) on July 16, 2013, alleging disability
beginning July 1, 2010. [Transcript (hereinafter,
“Tr.”) 162.] Penny later amended his disability
onset date to September 31, 2013. [Tr. 51.] Penny's
claims were initially denied by an Administrative Law Judge
and then denied again upon reconsideration. [See Tr.
14.] After requesting a hearing, Penny appeared and testified
at a video hearing on September 9, 2015 in front of ALJ
George M. Bock. [Id.] Vocational expert Jennifer
Ruhnke also testified. [Id.] The ALJ issued a final
decision ultimately denying Penny's claims for benefits.
Penny was born on October 1, 1969. [R. 10 at 2.] He completed
the ninth grade, and, while in school, Penny attend special
education classes. [Tr. 187.] He lives alone in Harlan
County, Kentucky, and has not worked since 2010. [R. 10 at 4;
Tr. 187.] His employment history consists of sporadic manual
labor, including working at a poultry factory in 1986 and for
a construction company in 2010. [Tr. 187.]
Penny alleges disability based on his limited education and
pain in his left knee, back, and right shoulder. [R. 10 at
3.] Mr. Penny's amended disability onset date is the
result of a car accident that occurred in September 2013.
[See id.] Through the course of Penny's
application for benefits, three different doctors examined
him for physical impairments related to his pain.
[See Tr. 272-76, 317-25, 327-28.] Generally, the
physicians agreed that Penny suffered strains and sprains of
his neck, back, and knee. [See id.] In February
2014, Penny was diagnosed with tears to his left anterior
cruciate ligament and medial meniscus, for which he underwent
arthroscopic surgery. [Tr. 331-36.] Following surgery, Penny
was referred to physical therapy, which he attended only
once. [See Tr. 353-57.]
to Penny's mental impairments, physicians noted no
significant signs of deficiencies. [See Tr. 273,
318, 322, 325, 347, 351.] In October 2013, Penny underwent a
psychological evaluation. [See Tr. 304-10.] From
that evaluation, the doctor diagnosed Penny with anxiety
disorder, and determined Penny had moderate impairment
“to understand, retain, and follow simple instructions,
” “to maintain social interactions with
supervisors, friends, and the public, ” and “to
adapt and respond to the pressures of day-to-day work
activity.” [Tr. 309-10.]
evaluating a claim of disability, the ALJ conducts a
five-step analysis. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920.
First, if a claimant is performing a substantial gainful
activity, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4)(i). Second, if a claimant does not have any
impairment or combination of impairments which is severe and
meets certain durational requirements, he is not
“disabled” as defined by the regulations. 20
C.F.R. §416.920(a)(4)(ii). Third, if a claimant's
impairments meet or equal one of the impairments listed in 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, he is
“disabled.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iii).
Before moving to the fourth step, the ALJ must use all the
relevant evidence in the record to determine the
claimant's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”), which assesses an individual's
ability to perform certain physical and mental work
activities on a sustained basis despite any impairment
experienced by the individual. See 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4); 20 C.F.R. §416.945. Fourth, the ALJ must
determine whether the claimant has the RFC to perform the
requirements of his past relevant work, and if a
claimant's impairments do not prevent him from doing past
relevant work, he is not “disabled.” 20. C.F.R.
§ 416.920(a)(4)(iv). Fifth, if a claimant's
impairments (considering his RFC, age, education, and past
work) prevent him from doing other work that exists in the
national economy, the he is “disabled.” 20 C.F.R.
step four of the analysis, “the claimant bears the
burden of proving the existence and severity of limitations
caused by her impairments and the fact that she is precluded
from performing her past relevant work.” Jones v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir.
2003). At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to
identify a significant number of jobs that accommodate the
claimant's profile, but the claimant retains the ultimate
burden of proving his lack of residual functional capacity.
Id.; Jordan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 548
F.3d 417, 423 (6th Cir. 2008).
case, at step one, the ALJ determined that Mr. Penny has not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since the September
30, 2013, amended alleged onset date. [Tr. 17.] At step two,
the ALJ found Penny to have the following
“severe” impairments: mild cervical degenerative
joint disease; status post ACL tear of the left knee with
surgical repair; borderline intellectual functioning; and
anxiety. [Id.] At step three, the ALJ found
Penny's combination of impairments do not meet or
medically equal the severity of one of the listed impairments
in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App'x 1. [Tr. 18.]
Before moving to step four, the ALJ considered the record and
determined that Penny possessed the following residual
[T]he claimant has the residual functioning capacity to
perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(c) but with
the following nonexertional limitations: no kneeling,
crawling, or climbing of ladders, ramps, or scaffolds and no
crouching. He is limited to repetitive work which is imple
(sic), routine, and unskilled. Such work activity also must
not involve any complex instructions or detailed tasks.
Further, he cannot have interaction with the general public.
[Tr. 19-20.] After explaining Penny's RFC, the ALJ found
at step four that, based on this RFC, his age, education, and
work experience, there are a “significant
number” of jobs in the national economy that Penny
can perform. [Tr. 25.] Accordingly, the ALJ found at step
five that Mr. Penny has not been under a disability since his
amended alleged onset date pursuant to 20 C.F.R. §
the unfavorable decision, Mr. Penny timely appealed to the
Appeals Council. However, the Appeals Council denied review
on August 29, 2016, and ...