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Robinson v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

March 26, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner Of Social Security, Defendant.


          Gregory F. Van Tatenhove United States District Judge

         Clay Robinson seeks judicial review of an administrative decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, which denied his claim for supplemental security income and disability insurance benefits. Mr. Robinson brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), alleging various errors on the part of the ALJ considering the matter. The Court, having reviewed the record and for the reasons set forth herein, will DENY Mr. Robinson's Motion for Summary Judgment and GRANT the Commissioner's.



         Plaintiff Clay Robinson filed an application for Title II disability insurance benefits and Title XVI supplemental security income on April 16, 2013, alleging disability beginning on December 27, 2012, in both claims. [Transcript (hereinafter, “Tr.”) 28.] On June 17, 2015, Administrative Law Judge Jonathan Stanley denied Mr. Robinson disability benefits. Tr. 25-45. Mr. Robinson appealed this decision, and on May 2, 2016, the Appeal's Council denied his request for review. Id. at 1-6.

         To evaluate a claim of disability for both Title II disability insurance benefit claims and Title XVI supplemental security income claims, an ALJ conducts a five-step analysis. Compare 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 (disability insurance benefit claim) with 20 C.F.R. § 416.920 (claims for supplemental security income).[1] First, if a claimant is performing a substantial gainful activity, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). Second, if a claimant does not have any impairment or combination of impairments which significantly limit his physical or mental ability to do basic work activities, he does not have a severe impairment and is not “disabled” as defined by the regulations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). Third, if a claimant's impairments meet or equal one of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, he is “disabled.” C.F.R. § 404.1530(d). Before moving on to the fourth step, the ALJ must use all of the relevant evidence in the record to determine the claimant's residual functional capacity (“RFC”), which assesses an individual's ability to perform certain physical and mental work activities on a sustained basis despite any impairment experienced by the individual. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545.

         Fourth, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has the RFC to perform the requirements of his past relevant work, and if a claimant's impairments do not prevent him from doing past relevant work, he is not “disabled.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e). Fifth, if a claimant's impairments (considering his RFC, age, education, and past work) prevent him from doing other work that exists in the national economy, then he is “disabled.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f).

         Through step four of the analysis, “the claimant bears the burden of proving the existence and severity of limitations caused by her impairments and the fact that she is precluded from performing her past relevant work.” Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to identify a significant number of jobs that accommodate the claimant's profile, but the claimant retains the ultimate burden of proving his lack of residual functional capacity. Id.; Jordan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 548 F.3d 417, 423 (6th Cir. 2008).

         At the outset of this case, the ALJ determined that Mr. Robinson met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2016. Tr. 28, 30; see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.131. Then at step one, ALJ Isaacs found Mr. Robinson had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged disability onset date, December 27, 2012. Tr. 30. At step two, the ALJ found Mr. Robinson to suffer from the following severe impairments: right sided cerebral palsy since childhood with right arm and hand contraction; degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, status post discectomy and fusion; and degenerative disc disease of the left shoulder with pain. Id. At step three, the ALJ determined his combination of impairments did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404 or Part 416. Id. at 31. Before moving on to step four, the ALJ considered the record and determined that Mr. Robinson possessed the following residual functioning capacity:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except he cannot climb ropes, ladders, and scaffolds; cannot crawl; can occasionally reach overhead using the dominant left upper extremity; cannot reach overhead using the non-dominant right upper extremity, but can frequently reach in all other directions; cannot handle and finger using the non-dominant right hand, but has no limitation with regard to use of the dominant left hand; must avoid concentrated exposure to vibration; cannot work at unprotected heights or around hazards such as dangerous machinery with moving mechanical parts.

Id. at 32. After explaining his RFC, the ALJ found at step four that, based on this RFC, his age, education, and work experience, there are several jobs in the national economy that Mr. Goins could perform. Id. at 38-40. Specifically, the ALJ found:

The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work as a sales representative, safety apparel and equipment; manager, professional equipment sales and service. This work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the claimant's residual functional capacity (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).

Id. at 38. Accordingly, the ALJ found at step five that Mr. Robinson was not disabled from December 27, 2012, through the date of the decision, pursuant to 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(f) and 416.920(f). Id. at 40.

         Following the unfavorable decision, Mr. Robinson timely appealed to the Appeals Council. However, the Appeals Council denied review on May 2, 2016, and Mr. Robinson ...

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