United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Brent Brcnncnstuhl United States Magistrate Judge
the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Robert Haws
(“Plaintiff”) seeking judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Both the Plaintiff (DN 15) and Defendant (DN
18) have filed a Fact and Law Summary. Additionally,
Plaintiff has filed a motion for summary judgment (DN 15) and
Defendant has filed a response (DN 18). For the reasons that
follow, the final decision of the Commissioner is affirmed.
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, the parties
have consented to the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge conducting all further proceedings in this case,
including issuance of a memorandum opinion and entry of
judgment, with direct review by the Sixth Circuit Court of
Appeals in the event an appeal is filed (DN 11). By Order
entered December 1, 2017 (DN 12), the parties were notified
that oral arguments would not be held unless a written
request therefor was filed and granted. No. such request was
filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits on
June 27, 2014 (Tr. 10, 195). Plaintiff alleged that he
became disabled on April 16, 2013, as a result of a back
injury and degenerative disc disease (Tr. 10, 226). On April
19, 2016, Administrative Law Judge Marci P. Eaton
(“ALJ”) conducted a video hearing from Paducah,
Kentucky (Tr. 10, 80-82). Plaintiff and his attorney, Sara
Martin, participated from Owensboro, Kentucky (Id.).
Also present in Paducah and testifying was Kenneth Boaz, an
impartial vocational expert.
decision dated June 10, 2016, the ALJ evaluated this adult
disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential
evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr.
10-20). At the first step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 16, 2013,
the alleged onset date (Tr. 12). At the second step, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff has the following
“severe” impairment: degenerative disc disease
status post lumbar surgeries with residual pain
(Id.). At the third step, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed
impairments in Appendix 1 (Id.).
fourth step, the ALJ made the following finding:
After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(b) except he can frequently climb ramps and
stairs, and occasionally climb ladders, ropes and scaffolds.
He can frequently stoop, crouch, and crawl. He should avoid
concentrated exposure to vibrating equipment, moving
machinery and unprotected heights.
on testimony from the vocational expert, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff is capable of performing his past relevant work as
a casting and forging machine operator (Tr. 18-19).
Nonetheless, the ALJ made alternative findings for step five
of the sequential evaluation process.
fifth step, the ALJ considered Plaintiff's residual
functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience
as well as testimony from the vocational expert (Tr. 19-20).
The ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of performing a
significant No. of jobs that exist in the national economy
(Tr. 20). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not
been under a “disability,” as defined in the
Social Security Act, from April 16, 2013 through June 10,
2016, the date of the decision (Id.). PLAINTIFF
timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the
ALJ's decision (Tr. 193-94). The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision
Review by the Court is limited to determining whether the
findings set forth in the final decision of the Commissioner
are supported by “substantial evidence,” 42
U.S.C. § 405(g); Cotton v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d
692, 695 (6th Cir. 1993); Wyatt v. Sec’y of Health
& Human Servs., 974 F.2d 680, 683 (6th Cir. 1992),
and whether the correct legal standards were applied.
Landsaw v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs.,
803 F.2d 211, 213 (6th Cir. 1986). “Substantial
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, 2 F.3d at 695 (quoting Casey v.
Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 987 F.2d 1230,
1233 (6th Cir. 1993)). In reviewing a case for substantial
evidence, the Court Amay not try the case de novo, nor
resolve conflicts in evidence, nor decide questions of
credibility." Cohen v. Sec’y of Health &
Human Servs., 964 F.2d 524, 528 (6th Cir. 1992) (quoting
Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir.
previously mentioned, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs
request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-4). At
that point, the ALJ's decision became the final decision
of the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.955(b),
404.981, 422.210(a); see 42 U.S.C. § 405(h) (finality of
the Commissioner’s decision). Thus, the Court will be
reviewing the decision of the ALJ, not the Appeals Council,
and the evidence that was in the administrative record when
the ALJ rendered the decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); 20
C.F.R. § 404.981; Cline v. Comm’r of Soc.
Sec, 96 F.3d 146, 148 (6th Cir. 1996); Cotton v.
Sullivan, 2 F.3d 692, 695-696 (6th Cir. 1993).
Commissioner’s Sequential Evaluation Process The Social
Security Act authorizes payment of Disability Insurance
Benefits and Supplemental Security Income to persons with
disabilities. 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq. (Title II
Disability Insurance Benefits), 1381 et seq. (Title XVI
Supplemental Security Income). The term Adisability" is
defined as an
[Inability 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 (12) months.
42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A) (Title II),
1382c(a)(3)(A) (Title XVI); 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1505(a), 416.905(a); Barnhart v. Walton, 535
U.S. 212, 214 (2002); Abbott v. Sullivan, 905 F.2d
918, 923 (6th Cir. 1990).
Commissioner has promulgated regulations setting forth a
five-step sequential evaluation process for evaluating a
disability claim. See “Evaluation of disability in
general,” 20 C.F.R. §§ ...