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 Tim Hamilton
seeking judicial review of the final decision of the
Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both the
Plaintiff (DN 18) and Defendant (DN 21) 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 14). By Order
entered July 17, 2017 (DN 15), 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 Disability Insurance and
Supplemental Security Income benefits on January 31, and
February 8, respectively (Tr. 277, 279). Plaintiff alleged
that he became disabled on March 1, 2010 (Id.).
Plaintiff described his disabling conditions as follows:
1. Diabetes, bipolar, copd, urticaria, hbp, pancreatitus,
2. Diabetes Mellitus type II (uncontrolled)Insulin Dependent
3. Unspecified essential hypertension (primary)
5. Bipolar Affect, depressed 6. Urticaria 7. COPD (chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease)
8. BPH (benign prostatic hypertrophy)
9. Headache-Classic Miagraine
10. Fatigue (Chronic)
11. High Cholesterol
(Tr. 306). Administrative Law Judge Amber Downs conducted a
hearing on January 14, 2015 (Tr. 32). The ALJ was in Paducah,
Kentucky, and Plaintiff appeared via video from Owensboro,
Kentucky and represented by Sara Martin, an attorney. Also
present and testifying was vocational expert Lowell LaTell.
The ALJ conducted a second hearing on July 15, 2015 (Tr. 74).
This time, Plaintiff appeared in person in Paducah, Kentucky.
Also testifying were vocational expert Stephanie Barnes and
psychological expert Tom Wagner.
decision dated January 6, 2016, the ALJ evaluated this adult
disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential
evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr.
7-31). At the first step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 1, 2010,
the alleged onset date (Tr. 12). At the second step, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff's degenerative disc disease,
obesity, diabetes mellitus, coronary artery disease,
hypertension, peripheral neuropathy, bipolar disorder, and
anxiety are “severe” impairments within the
meaning of the regulations (Tr. 12). Also at the second step,
the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's COPD and sleep apnea
are “non-severe” impairments within the meaning
of the regulations (Tr. 13). 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. 13-15).
fourth step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual
functional capacity to perform less than a full range of
light work (Tr. 15). More specifically, the ALJ assigned the
[H]e needs to alternate sitting and standing every 30
minutes. He can lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10
pounds frequently. He can sit, stand, and walk six hours each
in an eight-hour workday. He can occasionally stoop, crouch,
and climb ladders, ropes, scaffolds, ramps, and stairs. He
can tolerate frequent exposure to extreme cold, dust, odors,
fumes, pulmonary irritants and unprotected heights. He can
have occasional exposure to extreme heat and humidity. He can
perform one to three step simple work tasks involving no
contact with the public. He can occasionally interact with
supervisors and coworkers. He should avoid detailed work on a
sustained basis, and avoid all complex work. He should also
avoid exposure to dangerous machinery, loud and confusing
work environments, and highly distracting work.
(Tr. 15). Relying on testimony from the vocational expert,
the ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable to perform any of his
past relevant work as a forklift operator and production
laborer (Tr. 22-23).
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. 23). The ALJ found that Plaintiff is
capable of performing a significant number of jobs that exist
in the national economy (Tr. 23-24). Therefore, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a
“disability, ” as defined in the Social Security
Act, from March 1, 2010 through the date of the decision (Tr.
timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the
ALJ's decision (Tr. 5-6). The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision
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 ...