United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, Pikeville
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
October 22, 2014, Plaintiff Freddy Keith Howard filed an
application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and supplemental security income
(“SSI”), alleging disability beginning on
February 9, 2012. (Tr. 279-88). Specifically, Plaintiff
alleged that he was limited in his ability to work due to the
following: “herniated disks in back”;
“COPD”; “Recurrent Arrythmia[sic]”;
“Gerd[sic]”; “Anxiety”; “Panic
Disorder”; “Hearing”; “Arthritis in
hands and knees”; “Degenerative Disc
Disease”; “Depression”; “Sleep
problems”; and “Tumor on tailbone.” (Tr.
claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr.
123-24, 159-60). At Plaintiff's request, an
administrative hearing was conducted on December 5, 2016,
before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Boyce
Crocker. (Tr. 34-59). On January 10, 2017, ALJ Reynolds ruled
that Plaintiff was not entitled to benefits. (Tr. 40-67).
This decision became the final decision of the Commissioner
when the Appeals Council denied review on March 24, 2017.
April 13, 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. # 12 and 14).
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 and 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
he could consider Plaintiff's case, the ALJ was first
required to consider Plaintiff's previous application for
DIB, which had resulted in an unfavorable decision dated
September 3, 2014. (Tr. 43). Based on Social Security
Regulations and on the doctrine of res judicata, the
ALJ determined that the previous unfavorable decision was
final, binding, and involved the same issues, facts, and law.
Id. As a result, the time period that he was
permitted to examine was from September 4, 2014 forward.
One, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity from September 4, 2014 through
his date last insured. (Tr. 46). At Step Two, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: “degenerative disc disease, congenital
heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,
melanoma, mood disorder, and anxiety (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and
416.920(c)).” Id. At Step Three, the ALJ
considered Listings 1.04, 3.02, 4.06, 13.03, 12.04, and
12.06, and 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. 47-48).
Four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium
work, as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(c) and