United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London
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 and the parties' dispositive motions, and for
the reasons set forth herein, will affirm the
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
January 22, 2014, Plaintiff Carl Eugene Halcomb applied for
disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security
income (SSI), alleging disability beginning on December 6,
2012. (Tr. 198-202; 203-212). Plaintiff's application was
denied initially, and again on reconsideration. (Tr. 84-101;
106-125). At Plaintiff's request, an administrative
hearing was conducted on November 12, 2015, before
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Peter Jung. (Tr. 55-82). On
December 15, 2015, ALJ Jung ruled that Plaintiff was not
entitled to benefits. (Tr. 38-49). This decision became the
final decision of the Commissioner on December 13, 2016, when
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review. (Tr. 1-7).
filed the instant action on February 16, 2017, alleging the
ALJ's decision was not supported by substantial evidence,
contrary to law, and applied the incorrect standards. (Doc. #
3). The matter has culminated in cross-motions for summary
judgment, which are now ripe for adjudication. (Docs. # 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
Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 729 (6th Cir. 2007).
“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.” Cutlip
v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284,
286 (6th Cir. 1994). 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, as long as
it is supported by substantial evidence, even if the Court
might have decided the case differently. 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).
determine disability, the ALJ conducts a five-step analysis.
Step One considers whether the claimant has engaged in
substantial gainful activity; Step Two, whether any of the
claimant's impairments, alone or in combination, 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 a significant number of
other jobs exist in the national economy that the claimant
can perform. The burden of proof rests with the claimant on
Steps One through Four. As to the last step, the burden of
proof shifts to the Commissioner to identify “jobs in
the economy that accommodate [Plaintiff's] residual
functional capacity.” See Jones v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003); see
also 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 the Plaintiff has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since December 6, 2012, the
alleged onset date of disability. (Tr. 40). At Step Two, the
ALJ determined that the Plaintiff has the following severe
impairments: gouty arthritis; lumbar impairment with pain;
and osteoarthritis of the knees, left shoulder, and left
elbow. Id. The ALJ determined that the
Plaintiff's alleged anxiety and depression were
non-severe impairments because they did not cause “more
than minimal limitation in [his] ability to perform basic
mental work activities.” Id. At Step Three,
the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff does not have an impairment
or combination of impairments that meet or medically equal
one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. § 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 41).
Four, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff possesses the residual
functional capacity (RFC) to perform work at the light
exertional level, as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b),
with the following, additional limitations:
[L]ifting and carrying ten pounds frequently and twenty
pounds occasionally; pushing/pulling limited to less than
[twenty] pounds with left upper extremity; stand and walk six
hours in an eight hour workday, and sit six hours in an eight
hour workday; occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but never
climb ropes, ladders or scaffolds, and occasionally balance,
stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; frequently reach overhead,
laterally, or in front with his left upper extremity; avoid
frequent exposure to extreme cold, wetness, vibration, dust,
odors, fumes, poor ventilation, or gases; avoid all exposure
to heights, machinery and hazards.
(Tr. 41-42). Based on this RFC and relying on the testimony
of a vocational expert (VE), the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff
was unable to perform his past relevant work as a
heavy-equipment operator and plant operator. (Tr. 47). Thus,
the ALJ proceeded to Step Five, where he determined that
there were other jobs that existed in significant numbers in
the national economy that the Plaintiff could perform. (Tr.
48-49). Accordingly, ...