United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, Pikeville
OPINION AND ORDER
K. CALDWELL, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
matter is before the Court for consideration of cross-motions
for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff Randy Wayne Sturgill
(DE 14) and Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner
of Social Security (DE 16). Sturgill brought this action
under Section 405(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), to obtain judicial review of the final
decision of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”) denying his claim for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), as provided under
Titles II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”).
The Court, having reviewed the record, will affirm the
Overview of the Process
determine whether a claimant has a compensable disability
under the Social Security Act, the administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) applies a five step sequential process.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(1), (4); see also Miller v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 81 F.3d 825, 835 n.6 (6th Cir.
2016) (describing the five-step evaluation process). The five
steps, in summary, are:
Step 1: If the claimant is doing substantial gainful
activity, the claimant is not disabled.
Step 2: If the claimant does not have a severe
medically determinable physical or mental impairment-i.e., an
impairment that significantly limits his or her physical or
mental ability to do basic work activities-the claimant is
Step 3: If the claimant is not doing substantial
gainful activity and is suffering from a severe impairment
that has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous
period of at least twelve months, and his or her impairment
meets or equals a listed impairment, the claimant is presumed
disabled without further inquiry.
Step 4: If the claimant's impairment does not
prevent him or her from doing his or her past relevant work,
the claimant is not disabled.
Step 5: If the claimant can make an adjustment to
other work, the claimant is not disabled. If the claimant
cannot make an adjustment to other work, the claimant is
Sorrell v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 656 F.
App'x. 162, 169 (6th Cir. 2016) (citing Rabbers v.
Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 582 F.3d 647, 652
(6th Cir. 2009)).
any step in the process, the ALJ concludes that the claimant
is or is not disabled, the ALJ can then complete the
“determination or decision and [the ALJ] do[es] not go
on to the next step.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4).
In the first four steps of the process the claimant bears the
burden of proof. Sorrell, 656 F. App'x. at 169
(quoting Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. 336 F.3d
469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003)). If the claim proceeds to step
five, however, “the burden shifts to the Commissioner
to identify a significant number of jobs in the economy that
accommodate the claimant's residual functional capacity .
. . and vocational profile.” Id. (internal
citations omitted); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(g)(1).
Factual and Procedural Background
Randy Wayne Sturgill was born in 1971. (Administrative Record
(“AR”) 50). He is divorced with one child and
lives alone, but has a girlfriend. (AR 50-61, 61). He has an
eleventh grade education and dropped out of school to begin
working in the coal mines, which he did for nearly
twenty-seven years. (AR 51-53). Working on average sixty
hours a week, Sturgill performed a number of jobs operating
different types of equipment during his long career in the
mines. (AR 52, 64). His last date of reported work was
September 7, 2012 when his neck and shoulder were injured in
a rock fall. (AR 65). As a result of the injury, Sturgill
underwent neck surgery, but his spine has not yet fully
fused. (AR 65).
applied for Disability Insurance Benefits on June 4, 2013.
(AR 162-66). In his disability report, Sturgill claimed that
he was unable to work due to a broken neck, shoulder
injuries, high blood pressure and cholesterol, sleep apnea,
and thyroid problems. (AR 187). Sturgill's application
was denied initially and on reconsideration. (AR 87, 111). He
then filed a timely request for a hearing before an ALJ (AR
hearing was conducted by ALJ Don C. Paris on February 3,
2015. (AR 46). Sturgill attended the hearing via
videoconference, accompanied by his attorney, and testified
on his own behalf. Laura Whitten Lykins, an impartial
vocational expert, also appeared and testified. (AR 46-47).
After the hearing, the ALJ issued a written opinion on