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Goins v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

December 22, 2017

RANDELL CURTIS GOINS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner Of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          Gregory F. Van, Tatenhove United States District Judge.

         Randell Curtis Goins seeks judicial review of an administrative decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, which denied his claim for supplemental security income and disability insurance benefits. Mr. Goins 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. Goins's Motion for Summary Judgment and GRANT the Commissioner's.

         I

         A

         Plaintiff Randell Curtis Joins initially filed an application for Title II disability insurance benefits and Title XVI supplemental social security on August 18, 2012, alleging disability beginning on November 30, 2011, in both claims. [Transcript (hereinafter, “Tr.”) 112.] Goins's claims were initially denied by an Administrative Law Judge on December 3, 2012, and then denied again upon reconsideration on January 25, 2013. Id. Subsequently, the ALJ conducted a hearing with Goins on October 30, 2013. Id. On January 8, 2014, the ALJ rendered an unfavorable decision denying both of Mr. Goins's claims for benefits. Id. at 126. However, the record indicates that Mr. Goins did not pursue this decision any further.[1] Id. at 18. Instead, Mr. Goins filed a new application for Title II disability insurance benefits and Title XVI supplemental social security on May 7, 2014, alleging disability beginning on January 9, 2014 in both claims. Id. Goins's new claims were initially denied by an Administrative Law Judge on September 3, 2014, and then denied again upon reconsideration on September 12, 2014. Id. Subsequently, the ALJ conducted a hearing with Goins and counsel, and the ALJ issued a final decision ultimately denying both of Goins's claims for benefits on November 13, 2015. Id. Mr. Goins filed a Request for Review of Decision Order on November 27, 2015, and the case was remanded to the ALJ. Id. Upon remand, the ALJ found Mr. Goins was not disabled prior to November 2, 2015, but became disabled on November 2, 2015, and his condition was expected to last for twelve continuous months. Id. at 19. The ALJ determined Mr. Goins had not become disabled on January 9, 2014, but had become disabled upon a change in his age category on November 2, 2015. Id. at 18-19, 30-31.

         To evaluate a claim of disability for both Title II disability insurance benefit claims and Title XVI supplemental security income claims, an ALJ conducts a five-step analysis. Compare 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 (disability insurance benefit claim) with 20 C.F.R. § 416.920 (claims for supplemental security income).[2] First, if a claimant is performing a substantial gainful activity, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). Second, if a claimant does not have any impairment or combination of impairments which significantly limit his physical or mental ability to do basic work activities, he does not have a severe impairment and is not “disabled” as defined by the regulations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). 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.” C.F.R. § 404.1530(d). Before moving on to the fourth step, the ALJ must use all of the relevant evidence in the record to determine the claimant's residual functional capacity (“RFC”), which assess an individual's ability to perform certain physical and metal work activities on a sustained basis despite any impairment experienced by the individual. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545.

         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. § 404.1520(e). 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, then he is “disabled.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f).

         Through 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).

         At the outset of this case, the ALJ determined that Goins met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through September 30, 2016. Tr. 19, 21; see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.131. Then at step one, ALJ Isaacs found Mr. Goins had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged disability onset date, January 9, 2014. Tr. 21. At step two, the ALJ found Mr. Goins to suffer from the following severe impairments: other arthopathy in the right shoulder with mild degenerative joint disease, degenerative disk disease of the cervical spine with radiculopathy, mild intellectual disability/borderline intellectual functioning, anxiety, and depression. Id. at 21-22. At step three, the ALJ determined his combination of impairments did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404 or Part 416. Id. at 22. Before moving on to step four, the ALJ considered the record and determined that Mr. Goins possessed the following residual functioning capacity:

Mr. Goins has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except he can no more than occasionally flex or rotate his neck; no more than occasionally reach overhead bilaterally; no more than occasionally push and pull using his dominant right upper extremity; cannot climb robes, ladders and scaffolds; can no more than occasionally crawl; he has a marginal education and can only carry out simple, routine tasks (learned in less than 30 days) and learned through short demonstration or oral instruction when learning new tasks; and no more than occasionally tolerate changes in the workplace setting.

Id. at 24-25. After explaining his RFC, the ALJ found at step four that, based on this RFC, his age, education, and work experience, there are several jobs in the national economy that Mr. Goins could have performed prior to November 2, 2015. Id. at 30. Accordingly, the ALJ found at step five that Mr. Goins was not disabled prior to November 2, 2015, pursuant to 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g). Id. However, the ALJ also found, on November 2, 2015, when Mr. Goins's age category changed, he became disabled, and his condition was expected to last for twelve continuous months. Id. at 30-31.

         Following the partially favorable decision, Mr. Goins timely appealed to the Appeals Council. However, the Appeals Council denied review on October 26, 2016, and Mr. Goins now seeks judicial review in this Court. [R. 17-2 at 2.] He specifically appeals the determination that he was not disabled beginning January 9, 2014.

         B

         The Court's review is generally limited to whether there is substantial evidence in the record to support the ALJ's decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Wright v. Massanari, 321 F.3d 611, 614 (6th Cir. 2003); Shelman v. Heckler, 821 F.2d 316, 319-20 (6th Cir. 1987). “Substantial evidence” is “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.” Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994) (citing Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). The substantial evidence standard “presupposes that there is a zone of choice within which [administrative] ...


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