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Hamilton v. Berryhill

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

March 14, 2018

TIM HAMILTON PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          H. Brent Brennenstuhl United States Magistrate Judge.

         BACKGROUND

         Before 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 Law Summary.

         Pursuant 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.

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         Plaintiff 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, hyper
2. Diabetes Mellitus type II (uncontrolled)Insulin Dependent
3. Unspecified essential hypertension (primary)
4. Depression
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
12. hpb

(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.

         In a 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).

         At the 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 following limitations:

[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).

         The ALJ 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. 24).

         Plaintiff 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 (Tr. 1-4).

         CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

         Standard 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 ...


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