United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION &
Gregory F. Van Tatenhove United States District Judge
Victor Pinson 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. Pinson 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. Pinson's Motion for Summary
Judgment and GRANT the Commissioner's.
Steven Victor Pinson initially filed an application for Title
II disability insurance benefits on April 16, 2014, alleging
disability beginning on February 20, 2010. [Transcript
(hereinafter, “Tr.”) 20.] Administrative Law
Judge Benton denied this request on June 27, 2014, and again
denied it upon reconsideration on September 10, 2014.
Id. Mr. Pinson filed a request for a hearing on
September 12, 2014, which was held on May 10, 2016.
Id. On September 1, 2016, ALJ Benton again denied
Mr. Pinson's application. Id. at 17. The Appeals
Council denied Mr. Pinson's request for review on August
22, 2017. Id. at 1.
evaluate a claim of disability for Title II disability
insurance benefit 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). 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
assess an individual's ability to perform certain
physical and metal 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. §
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. §
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).
outset of this case, the ALJ determined that Mr. Pinson met
the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act
through December 31, 2015. Tr. 22; see also 20
C.F.R. § 404.131. Then at Step One, the ALJ found Mr.
Pinson had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since
the alleged disability onset date, February 20, 2010, through
his date last insured. Tr. 22. At Step Two, the ALJ found Mr.
Pinson to suffer from the following severe impairments:
cervicalgia, lumbago, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar
spine, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), and
depression. 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 22-23. Before moving on to Step
Four, the ALJ considered the record and determined that Mr.
Pinson possessed the following residual functioning capacity:
[Mr. Pinson] had the residual functional capacity to perform
light work as defined in 20 C.F.R 404.1567(b) except the
claimant (1) could occasionally climb stairs and ramps; (2)
could never climb ladders or scaffolds; (3) could frequently
balance; (4) could occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and
crawl; (5) must have avoided concentrated exposure to dust,
odors, fumes and other pulmonary irritants; (6) must have
avoided concentrated exposure to hazards such as moving
mechanical parts and unprotected heights; and (7) would need
the opportunity to very briefly change position, while
remaining on task, after sitting or standing for
approximately 30 minutes. Further, the claimant could (1)
understand, remember and carry out simple instructions; (2)
have occasional interaction with supervisors, coworkers, and
the public; (3) only make simple, work-related decisions; and
(4) only tolerate occasional change in work location.
Id. at 25. After explaining the RFC, the ALJ found
at Step Four that, based on his RFC, age, education, and work
experience, Mr. Pinson was not capable of performing past
relevant work as a miner, but was capable of performing other
jobs existing in the national economy. Id. at 32-
33. Accordingly, the ALJ found at Step Five that Mr. Pinson
was not disabled from February 20, 2010, through the date
last insured, pursuant to 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(f).
Id. at 34. Mr. Pinson filed this action for review
on October 18, 2017. [R. 1.]
Court's review is generally limited to whether there is
substantial evidence in the record to support the ALJ's
decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Wright v.
Massanari, 321 F.3d 611, 614 (6th Cir. 2003);
Shelman v. Heckler, 821 F.2d 316, 319-20 (6th Cir.
1987). “Substantial evidence” is “more than
a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance; it is
such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Cutlip v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286
(6th Cir. 1994) (citing Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). The substantial evidence standard
“presupposes that there is a zone of choice within
which [administrative] decision makers can go either way,
without interference by the courts.” Mullen v.
Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986) (quoting
Baker v. Heckler, 730 F.2d 1147, 1150 (8th Cir.
determine whether substantial evidence exists, courts must
examine the record as a whole. Cutlip, 25 F.3d at
286 (citing Kirk v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 667 F.2d 524, 535 (6th Cir. 1981), cert.
denied, 461 U.S. 957 (1983)). However, a reviewing court
may not conduct a de novo review, resolve conflicts
in the evidence, or make credibility determinations.
Ulman v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 693 F.3d 709, 713
(6th Cir. 2012); see also Bradley v. Sec'y of Health
& Human Servs., 862 F.2d 1224, 1228 (6th Cir. 1988).
Rather, if the Commissioner's decision is supported by
substantial evidence, it must be affirmed even if the
reviewing court would decide the matter differently, and even
if substantial evidence also ...