United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London
DAVID M. GREGORY, JR. PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, 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
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
August 13, 2014, Plaintiff David M. Gregory, Jr. filed an
application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and supplemental security income
(“SSI”), alleging disability beginning on
November 15, 2013. (Tr. 184-99). Specifically, Plaintiff
alleged that he was limited in his ability to work due to
“back problems” and “breathing
problems.” (Tr. 240).
claims were denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr.
66-67, 110-15, 125-31). At Plaintiff's request, an
administrative hearing was conducted on February 22, 2016,
before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) George M.
Bock. (Tr. 35-51). On July 13, 2017, ALJ Bock ruled that
Plaintiff was not entitled to benefits. (Tr. 16-34). This
decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when
the Appeals Council denied review on July 24, 2017. (Tr.
August 31, 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. # 11 and 13).
Overview of the Process
review of the Commissioner's decision is restricted to
determining whether the decision 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 November 15, 2013. (Tr.
21). At Step Two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the
following severe impairments: “degenerative disc
disease of the lumbar spine; nominal spondylosis of the
cervical spine; polyneuropathy, unclear etiology; chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease; emphysema; borderline
intellectual functioning (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and
416.920(c)).” (Tr. 22). 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 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 414.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and
416.926)." (Tr. 22).
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, ...