United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, Pikeville
DONALD R. FUGATE PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. Bunning United States District Judge.
brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to
obtain judicial review of an administrative decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security. The Court, having reviewed
the record, will affirm the Commissioner's decision, as
it is supported by substantial evidence.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
January 28, 2014, Plaintiff Donald R. Fugate filed an
application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and supplemental security income
(“SSI”), alleging disability beginning on June
15, 2012. (Tr. 159-66). Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that
he was limited in his ability to work due to the following:
“Learning dib, back, neck, heart, hearing,
vision” and “Lower hernia.” (Tr. 183).
claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr.
87-88, 111-12). At Plaintiff's request, an administrative
hearing was conducted on December 5, 2016, before
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Roger Reynolds.
(Tr. 36-64). On February 2, 2016, ALJ Reynolds ruled that
Plaintiff was not entitled to benefits. (Tr. 12-28). This
decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when
the Appeals Council denied review on March 15, 2017. (Tr.
19, 2017, Plaintiff filed the instant action. (Doc. # 1).
This matter has culminated in cross-motions for summary
judgment, which are now ripe for the Court's review.
(Docs. # 13 and 15).
Overview of the Process
review of the Commissioner's decision is restricted to
determining whether it is supported by substantial evidence
and was made pursuant to proper legal standards. See
Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25
F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994). “Substantial
evidence” is defined as “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.” Id. Courts are not to
conduct a de novo review, resolve conflicts in the
evidence, or make credibility determinations. Id.
Rather, the Court must affirm the Commissioner's
decision, provided it is supported by substantial evidence,
even if the Court might have decided the case differently.
See Her v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 203 F.3d 388,
389-90 (6th Cir. 1999). If supported by substantial evidence,
the Commissioner's findings must be affirmed, even if
there is evidence favoring Plaintiff's side.
Listenbee v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs.,
846 F.2d 345, 349 (6th Cir. 1988). Similarly, an
administrative decision is not subject to reversal merely
because substantial evidence would have supported the
opposite conclusion. Smith v. Chater, 99 F.3d 780,
781-82 (6th Cir. 1996).
ALJ, in determining disability, conducts a five-step
analysis. Step One considers whether the claimant is still
performing substantial gainful activity; Step Two, whether
any of the claimant's impairments are
“severe”; Step Three, whether the impairments
meet or equal a listing in the Listing of Impairments; Step
Four, whether the claimant can still perform his past
relevant work; and Step Five, whether significant numbers of
other jobs exist in the national economy which the claimant
can perform. As to the last step, the burden of proof shifts
from the claimant to the Commissioner. See Jones v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir.
2003); Preslar v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994).
The ALJ's Determination
One, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since June 15, 2012. (Tr. 14).
At Step Two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the
following severe impairments: “chronic neck and low
back pain secondary to degenerative disc disease of the
cervical and lumbar spine with multilevel disc bulges and
osteophyte formation; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
(‘COPD') secondary to coal workers pneumoconiosis
and nicotine abuse; mild left ventricular cardiac dysfunction
with bradycardia (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).”
Id. At Step Three, while recognizing that Plaintiff
had “severe” impairments, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that “meets or medically equals the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.152(d), 404.1525,
414.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926)." (Tr.
Four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light
work, as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b), with the exertional and non-exertional
limitations as follows:
[N]o climbing of ropes, ladders or scaffolds, occasional
climbing of stairs or ramps, occasional stooping, kneeling,
crouching or crawling, no aerobic activities such as running
or jumping, no work with hands over the head; no aerobic
activities such as running or jumping, no work with hands
over the head; no operation of foot pedal controls; no
exposure to concentrated dust, gases, smoke, ...