United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, Pikeville
LANNIE S. RAY PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner of Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. Bunning, United States District Judge.
brought this pro se 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
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
October 28, 2013, Plaintiff Lannie S. Ray filed an
application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”), alleging disability beginning on
November 1, 2012. (Tr. 274-85). Specifically, Plaintiff
alleged that he was limited in his ability to work due to the
following: herniated disk L5-S1; right knee pain;
hypertension; sacroilitis in left hip; fatigue; anxiety; mood
disorder due to general medical condition; cervical spine
injury with arthritis C3-C4; involuntary muscle twitching in
both arms; pain and stiffness in neck; and pain and numbness
in both hands. (Tr. 278).
claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr.
185-88, 194-200). At Plaintiff's request, an
administrative hearing was conducted on March 30, 2016,
before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Robert B.
Bowling. (Tr. 113-52). On April 22, 2016, ALJ Bowling ruled
that Plaintiff was not entitled to benefits. (Tr. 88-112).
This decision became the final decision of the Commissioner
when the Appeals Council denied review on July 7, 2017. (Tr.
August 22, 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. # 12, 13 and 14).
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
if 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 November 1, 2012. (Tr.
93). At Step Two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the
following severe impairments: “disorders of the back,
both discogenic and degenerative; osteoarthrosis and allied
disorders; disorders of the joints; and essential
hypertension (20 CFR 404.1520(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, and
414.1526)." (Tr. 96).
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) with
the exertional and non-exertional limitations as follows:
[T]he claimant can stand and walk for only six hours total in
an eight-hour workday. He can sit for only six hours total in
an eight-hour workday, and would require a sit or stand
option on a 30-minute basis. The claimant can never climb
ladders, ropes and scaffolds, and can only occasionally climb
ramps and stairs. He can only occasionally stoop, kneel,
crouch, and crawl. He can only occasionally reach overhead or
only occasionally push or pull with the left upper or left
lower extremity. He should avoid concentrated exposure to
extreme cold, wetness or humidity. He should avoid all
exposure to hazards, such as the use of moving machinery and
work at unprotected heights.
97). Based upon the RFC, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was
not able to perform his past relevant work. (Tr. 104).
Accordingly, the ALJ proceeded to Step Five and found that,
considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience,
and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in the national
economy that Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 104-05). The ALJ
therefore concluded that Plaintiff was not under a
disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from
November 1, 2012, through the date of decision. (Tr. 105).
Substantial evidence supports the ALJ's
presents fourteen (14) specific errors on appeal:
(1) The ALJ failed to consider or mention the examination of
Plaintiff by Doctor Phillip Hatfield, Ph.D.;
(2) The ALJ failed to consider or document the Veteran's
Administration's (“VA”) determination that
Plaintiff was seventy percent disabled, ...