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Jones v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

March 12, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT


          Greg N. Stivers, United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Objection[1] to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (DN 17). For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's Objection is OVERRULED, the Magistrate Judge's Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendation (“R. & R.”) (DN 16) is ADOPTED, and Plaintiff's Complaint (DN 1) is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Disability

         In February 2013, Plaintiff Willie A. Jones (“Plaintiff”) applied for disability insurance benefits alleging he had become disabled on September 23, 2012, as a result of back and spinal injuries. (Administrative R. 216-222, DN 8-1 to DN 8-10 [hereinafter R.]). On July 11, 2013, the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) notified Plaintiff that his benefits claims had been denied. (R. at 121-36, 155-58). Plaintiff requested reconsideration on August 30, 2013. (R. at 162-63). On October 8, 2013, the SSA notified Plaintiff that an independent review by a physician and disability examiner in the state agency had found the previous denial of benefits to be proper. (R. at 137-54, 164-71). Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge on October 9, 2013. (R. at 172-74). On November 13, 2014, Plaintiff participated in a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Roland D. Mather (“ALJ”). (R. at 86-120). The ALJ denied the claim, reasoning that Plaintiff had not been under a disability from September 23, 2012, through April 17, 2015, the date of the decision. (R. at 59-85).

         B. ALJ's Decision

         In reaching his decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's application under the five-step sequential evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner. (R. at 62-85). First, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 23, 2012, the alleged onset date. (R. at 64). Second, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's “degenerative disc disease, polyneuropathy, myopathy, and obesity” were “severe” impairments within the meaning of the regulations. (R. at 64-67). Third, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.[2] (R. at 67). Fourth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform light work, subject to limitations.[3](R. at 67-76). Relying on testimony from a vocational expert, the ALJ found Plaintiff unable to perform any of his past relevant work as a jailer. (R. at 76). Fifth, the ALJ considered Plaintiff's residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience as well as testimony from the vocational expert. (R. at 76-77). The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was capable of performing a significant No. of jobs that exist in the national economy, and has not been under a “disability, ” as defined in the Social Security Act, [4] since the filing date of his application. (R. at 76-77). Plaintiff filed a request for review, which the Appeals Council denied. (R. at 1-6, 52-53, 58).

         C. Plaintiff's Federal Claim

         Plaintiff filed suit in this Court seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision. (Compl., DN 1). Following the filing of the administrative record and fact and law summaries from each party, Magistrate Judge Lindsay recommended that the final decision of the Commissioner be affirmed. (R. & R. 9).

         Plaintiff filed his objection to Magistrate Judge Lindsay's R. & R., and the Commissioner responded. (Pl.'s Obj., DN 17; Def.'s Resp. Pl.'s Obj., DN 19). This matter is ripe for adjudication.


         The Court has jurisdiction to examine the record that was before the Commissioner on the date of the Commissioner's final decision and to enter judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing that decision. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).


         District courts review the parts of a magistrate judge's R. & R. to which objections are raised de novo, and, in doing so, may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the R. & R. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). This differs from the standard applied to the Commissioner's decision. That decision, rendered by an ALJ, is reviewed to determine “whether it is supported by substantial evidence and was made pursuant to proper legal standards.” Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB,305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). Where substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision, a court is obliged to affirm. Siterlet v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.,823 F.2d 918, 920 (6th Cir. 1987) (citation omitted). A court should not attempt to second-guess the factfinder with respect to conflicts of ...

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