United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Brent Brennenstuhl, United States Magistrate Judge
the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Plaintiff Adam Wayne
Sutton seeking judicial review of the final decision of the
Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both the
Plaintiff (DN 12) and Defendant (DN 20) have filed a Fact and
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, the parties
have consented to the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge conducting all further proceedings in this case,
including issuance of a memorandum opinion and entry of
judgment, with direct review by the Sixth Circuit Court of
Appeals in the event an appeal is filed (DN 10). By Order
entered June 29, 2017 (DN 11), the parties were notified that
oral arguments would not be held unless a written request
therefor was filed and granted. No such request was filed.
filed an application for Supplemental Security Income
benefits on December 30, 2013 (Tr. 163). Plaintiff alleged
that he became disabled on December 1, 2013 (Tr. 177) as a
result of White Coat Syndrome, attention deficit and
hyperactivity disorder, social anxieties, high blood
pressure, and gum disease (Tr. 182). Administrative Law Judge
Mary Lassy conducted a hearing on December 10, 2015 in
Paducah, Kentucky (Tr. 35-56). Plaintiff was present and
represented by Wendell Holloway, an attorney. Also present
and testifying were vocational expert Dr. Stephanie Barnes
and medical expert Dr. Tom Wagner.
decision dated December 31, 2015, the ALJ evaluated this
adult disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential
evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr.
18-34). At the first step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 27,
2013, the protective filing date (Tr. 23). At the second
step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's history of
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression,
anxiety, and borderline intellectual function are
“severe” impairments within the meaning of the
regulations (Tr. 23). At the third step, the ALJ concluded
that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed
impairments in Appendix 1 (Tr. 23).
fourth step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual
functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all
exertional levels except "he would need to avoid
ladders, ropes, and scaffolds and exposure to hazardous
machinery and heights. He can understand, remember, and carry
out simple instructions. There should be no complex work. He
can sustain attention for simple tasks. There should be no
interaction with the general public. He can occasionally
interact with supervisors and coworkers. He can adapt to
stress in a more object orientated work setting. He would
need to avoid strict production work" (Tr. 24). The ALJ
determined the Plaintiff has no past relevant work (Tr. 28).
proceeded to the fifth step where she considered
Plaintiff's residual functional capacity, age, education,
and past work experience as well as testimony from the
vocational expert (Tr. 28). The ALJ found that Plaintiff is
capable of performing a significant number of jobs that exist
in the national economy (Tr. 28-29). Therefore, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a
“disability, ” as defined in the Social Security
Act, from December 27, 2013, through the date of the decision
timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the
ALJ's decision (Tr. 15). The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision
of Review Review by the Court is limited to determining
whether the findings set forth in the final decision of the
Commissioner are supported by “substantial evidence,
” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Cotton v. Sullivan,
2 F.3d 692, 695 (6th Cir. 1993); Wyatt v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 974 F.2d 680, 683 (6th Cir.
1992), and whether the correct legal standards were applied.
Landsaw v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.,
803 F.2d 211, 213 (6th Cir. 1986). “Substantial
evidence exists when a reasonable mind could accept the
evidence as adequate to support the challenged conclusion,
even if that evidence could support a decision the other
way.” Cotton, 2 F.3d at 695 (quoting Casey
v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 987 F.2d
1230, 1233 (6th Cir. 1993)). In reviewing a case for
substantial evidence, the Court “may not try the case
de novo, nor resolve conflicts in evidence, nor
decide questions of credibility.” Cohen v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 964 F.2d 524,
528 (6th Cir. 1992) (quoting Garner v. Heckler, 745
F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984)).
previously mentioned, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision
(Tr. 1). At that point, the ALJ's decision became the
final decision of the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.955(b), 404.981, 422.210(a); see 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(h) (finality of the Commissioner's decision).
Thus, the Court will be reviewing the decision of the ALJ,
not the Appeals Council, and the evidence that was in the
administrative record when the ALJ rendered the decision. 42
U.S.C. § 405(g); 20 C.F.R. § 404.981; Cline v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 96 F.3d 146, 148 (6th Cir.
1996); Cotton v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 692, 695-696 (6th
Commissioner's Sequential Evaluation Process The Social
Security Act authorizes payment of Disability Insurance
Benefits and Supplemental Security Income to persons with
disabilities. 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq. (Title II
Disability Insurance Benefits), 1381 et seq. (Title XVI