United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Lindsay, Magistrate Judge
the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of plaintiff Lillian Marie
Phillips (“Phillips”) filed on January 17, 2017.
In her complaint, Phillips seeks judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“the
Commissioner”). See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
(2012) (“Any individual, after any final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security . . . may obtain a review
of such decision by a civil action commenced within sixty
days after the mailing to him of notice of such decision . .
. .”). Phillips filed a Fact and Law Summary (DN 15).
The Commissioner also filed a Fact and Law Summary (DN 18).
parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a magistrate
judge to enter judgment in this case with direct review by
the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in the event an appeal is
filed (DN 14). Therefore, this matter is ripe for review. For
the reasons set forth below, the final decision of the
Commissioner is affirmed.
filed an application for supplemental security income on
January 8, 2013, alleging that she became disabled on October
1, 2006. (Tr. 41.)
22, 2015, Administrative Law Judge William C. Zuber
(“the ALJ”) conducted a hearing on her
application. (Id. at 41.) Phillips did not attend
her hearing, but claimant representative Kevin McDowell
attended the hearing on her behalf. (Id. at 58.) Mr.
Robert G. Piper, a vocational expert (“VE”),
testified at the hearing. (Id. at 41.) In a decision
dated November 25, 2015, the ALJ engaged in the five-step
evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner to
determine whether an individual is disabled. (Id. at
50.) In doing so, the ALJ made the following findings.
Phillips has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since January 8, 2013, the alleged onset date. (Id.
Phillips has the following medically determinable
impairments: hepatitis, asthma, and a history of cervical and
lumbar strains. (Id.)
Phillips does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
(Id. at 46.)
Phillips has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform the full range of light work.
Phillips is capable of performing her past relevant work as a
house worker, general. (Id. at 49.)
Phillips has not been under a disability, as defined in the
Social Security Act, from January 8, 2013, the date that her
application was filed, through the date of the decision.
(Id. at 49-50.)
timely requested an appeal to the Appeals Council on December
2, 2015. (Id. at 36.) On November 23, 2016, the
Appeals Council denied Phillips's request for review.
(Id. at 1.) At that point, the ALJ's decision
became the final decision of the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.981, 422.210(a); see also 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(h) (discussing finality of the Commissioner's
decision). Phillips timely filed this action on January 17,
2017. (DN 1.)
Social Security Act authorizes payment of supplemental social
security benefits to persons with disabilities. Social
Security Act, Supplemental Social Security Income, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1381-85 (2012). An individual shall be
considered disabled if “he is unable to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A);
see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a).
Standard of Review
conducting its review, the Court “may not try the case
de novo, nor resolve conflicts in evidence, nor
decide questions of credibility." Garner v.
Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 745 F.2d 383, 387
(6th Cir. 1984) (citing Myers v. Richardson, 471
F.2d 1265 (6th Cir. 1972)). Rather, the Court's review is
limited to determining whether the findings set forth in the
final decision of the Commissioner are supported by
“substantial evidence" and that the correct legal
standards were applied. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Gayheart
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 710 F.3d 365, 374 (6th Cir.
2013); Cole v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 661 F.3d
931, 937 (6th Cir. 2011). If the answer is Ayes, " then
the Court may not even inquire as to whether the record could
support a decision the other way. Smith v. Sec'y of
Health and Human Servs., 893 F.2d 106, 108 (6th Cir.
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 v. Sec'y of Health and Human
Servs., 2 F.3d 692, 695 (6th Cir. 1993) (quoting
Casey v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 987
F.2d 1230, 1233 (6th Cir. 1993)) (internal quotation marks
omitted). Therefore, A[a] reviewing court will affirm the
Commissioner's decision if it is based on substantial
evidence, even if substantial evidence would also have
supported the opposite conclusion." Gayheart,
710 F.3d at 374.
Five-Step Sequential Evaluation Process
Commissioner has promulgated regulations that set forth a
five-step sequential evaluation process that an ALJ must
follow in evaluating a disability claim. 20 C.F.R.