United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. BANNING 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
22, 2009, Plaintiff King Taylor applied for disability
insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income
(SSI), alleging disability beginning May 2, 2009. (Tr.
198-202; 203-212). (Tr. 276). On June 15, 2011,
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) John M. Prince issued a fully
favorable decision and awarded Plaintiff DIB and SSI
benefits. Id. Because medical improvement was
“expected with appropriate treatment given the
claimant's youth, ” ALJ Prince recommended that a
continuing disability review be conducted twelve months after
his decision. Id.
March 29, 2013, it was determined that the Plaintiff was no
longer disabled. (Tr. 160; Tr. 277-278). That determination
was upheld upon reconsideration after a disability hearing by
a State Agency Disability Hearing Officer. (Tr. 289-305). At
Plaintiff's request, a further administrative hearing was
conducted on October 27, 2015, before ALJ Anne Shaughnessy.
(Tr. 243-266). On January 8, 2016, ALJ Shaughnessy ruled that
Plaintiff's disability had ended and that he was not
entitled to benefits. (Tr. 160-173). This decision became the
final decision of the Commissioner on April 4, 2017, when the
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review. (Tr. 1-8).
filed the instant pro se action on March 14, 2017,
seeking review of the Commissioner's decision to
terminate his DIB and SSI benefits. (Doc. # 2). The matter
has culminated in cross-motions for summary judgment, which
are now ripe for adjudication. (Docs. # 13 and 15).
has also filed a Motion for Extension of Time for Filing
Additional Evidence. (Doc. # 16). Plaintiff's Motion
requests that the Court consider additional “exhibits
of evidence.” Id. The Motion must be denied
for two reasons. First, and most importantly, the Court's
review is limited to the certified administrative record. 42
U.S.C. § 405(g); Salyer v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 574 Fed.Appx. 595, 597 (6th Cir. 2014). Second, an
examination of the fifty-three pages Plaintiff attached to
his Motion reveal that these documents are not
“evidence” and are wholly unrelated to the issues
in this social-security appeal. (Doc. # 16-1). Plaintiff,
apparently attempting to use this social-security appeal as a
vehicle for all legal injuries he has allegedly suffered,
complains of food poisoning he contracted from several
fast-food restaurants, car troubles and a dispute with the
auto-mechanic company, and a defective cell phone that was
lost in the mail. Id. The fifty- three pages of
exhibits are merely receipts and a record of these various
complaints. Id. Because the “additional
evidence” Plaintiff requests leave to submit is not
part of the certified administrative record and is wholly
unrelated to this case, the Court declines to consider it.
Therefore, Plaintiff's Motion for Extension of Time for
Filing Additional Evidence (Doc. # 16) is
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).
Continuation of Benefits
Commissioner's decision to award disability benefits does
not end the inquiry into a recipient's entitlement to
benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 423(f). Rather, a recipient's
“continued entitlement to such benefits must be
reviewed periodically.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.994(a).
the cessation of benefits is at issue, as here, the central
question is whether the claimant's medical impairments
have improved to the point where [he] is able to perform
substantial gainful activity.” Kennedy v.
Astrue, 247 Fed.Appx. 761, 764 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing
42 U.S.C. § 423(f)(1)). “Improvement is measured
from ‘the most recent favorable decision' that the
claimant was disabled, ” that date is known as the
“comparison point decision.” Id. (citing
20 C.F.R. § 416.994(b)(1)(i)). “There is no
presumption of continuing disability.” Id.
(citing Cutlip, 25 F.3d at 286-87 n.1).
“Instead, the Commissioner applies the procedures that
are outlined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1594 and 416.994
to determine whether a claimant's disability has ended
and that [he] is now able to work.” Id.
determine if the claimant continues to be disabled, the ALJ
employs an eight-step sequential analysis for Title II claims
and a seven-step analysis for Title XVI claims. The analysis
for Title II claims includes an additional, threshold
consideration of the claimant's performance of
substantial gainful activity; otherwise, the Title II and
Title XVI analyses are the same. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1594(f)(1)l; 416.994(b)(5). Put another way, Steps Two
through Eight in Title II claims mirror Steps One through
Seven in Title XVI claims.
One for Title II claims, the ALJ examines whether the
claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity. If the
answer is yes, the claimant is no longer disabled. At Step
Two for Title II claims and Step One for Title XVI claims,
the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has an impairment
or combination of impairments which meets or medically equals
the criteria of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1. If the claimant does, his disability
continues and the analysis ends. If not, the analysis
next steps focus on medical improvement-the critical question
for continuation of benefits. At Step Three for Title II
claims and Step Two for Title XVI claims, the ALJ must
determine whether the claimant has experienced medical
improvement. Step Four for Title II claims and Step Three for
Title XVI claims requires the ALJ to determine whether any
medical improvement is related to the claimant's ability
to work. If there has not been medical improvement or if the
medical improvement is not related to the individual's
ability to perform work, the ALJ must continue to Step Five
for Title II claims and Step Four for Title XVI claims, which
considers whether any exceptions to the medical-improvement
there has been medical improvement related to the
claimant's ability to work or an exception to the
medical-improvement standard applies, the remainder of the
ALJ's continuing-disability analysis parallels the
initial-disability analysis. At Step Six for Title II claims
and Step Five for Title XVI claims, the ALJ must determine
whether all of the claimant's current impairments are
severe. At Step Seven for Title II claims and Step Six for
Title XVI claims, the ALJ assesses the claimant's
residual functional capacity (RFC) based on his current
impairments and determines if he can perform past relevant
work. If the claimant cannot perform his past relevant work,
the ALJ proceeds to the last step and determines whether a
significant number of other jobs exist in the national
economy that the claimant can perform. If the claimant can
perform other work, he is no longer disabled. If he cannot,
his disability continues.
burden of proving disability rests with the claimant. As to
the final step, however, a limited burden shifts to the
Social Security Administration. To support a finding that a
claimant's disability has ended, the Commissioner is
responsible for providing evidence that demonstrates that
other work exists in significant numbers in the national
economy that the claimant can do, given his RFC, age,
education, and work experience.
The ALJ's Determination
One,  the ALJ found that the Plaintiff has not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 29, 2013,
the date the prior disability ended. (Tr. 162). At Step Two,
the ALJ determined that Plaintiff currently has the following
medically determinable impairments: history of left shoulder
surgery; degenerative disc disease; residual pain status post
left second toe injury; post-traumatic stress disorder; and
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Id. The
ALJ determined that the Plaintiff's alleged migraine
headaches, cysts, and asthma were non-severe impairments
because they resulted “in no more than minimal
limitations on his ability to engage in work
activity.” (Tr. 163). Therefore, the ALJ concluded