United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Brent Brennenstuhl, United States Magistrate Judge
the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Plaintiff Carla
Gillaspie seeking judicial review of the final decision of
the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both
the Plaintiff (DN 13) and Defendant (DN 18) have filed a Fact
and Law Summary.
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 January 31, 2018 (DN 10), the parties were notified
that oral arguments would not be held unless a written
request therefor was filed and granted. No such request was
protectively filed an application for Disability Insurance
and Supplemental Security Income Benefits on July 20, 2016
(Tr. 268, 270, 277). Plaintiff alleged that she became
disabled on May 23, 2015 as a result of degenerative disc
disease, fibromyalgia, chronic migraines, major depression,
anxiety, chronic fatigue, COPD, and high cholesterol (Tr.
270, 301). Administrative Law Judge Maribeth McMahon
(“ALJ”) conducted a hearing on March 14, 2017 in
Paducah, Kentucky. Plaintiff was present and represented by
attorney Sara Martin. Also present and testifying was
vocational expert James Adams.
decision dated June 25, 2017, the ALJ evaluated this adult
disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential
evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr.
8-28). At the first step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 23, 2014,
the alleged onset date (Tr. 14). At the second step, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff's degenerative disc disease,
migraines, depression, and anxiety are “severe”
impairments within the meaning of the regulations (Tr. 14).
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 (Tr. 15).
fourth step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual
functional capacity to perform a reduced range of light work
(Tr. 16). The ALJ assessed the following limitations:
Specifically, the claimant may lift and/or carry 20 pounds
occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. She may frequently
push and/or pull with the lower extremities bilaterally. She
may sit, stand, and/or walk for 30 minutes at a time each, up
to 4 hours each in an 8-hour workday. She may never climb
ladders/ropes/scaffolds. She may frequently climb
ramps/stairs. She may frequently stoop, kneel, crouch, and
crawl. She should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme
cold, vibration, unprotected heights, and moving machinery.
She is able to understand, remember, and carry out simple 1
to 2 step instructions. She is able to make simple,
workrelated decisions. She is able to have occasional
interaction with the public and frequent interaction with
supervisors and coworkers. She should avoid confusing,
complex, distracting, or fast-paced work.
16). Relying on testimony from the vocational expert, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff is unable to perform any of her past
relevant work as an administrative assistant (Tr. 21).
proceeded to the fifth step where she considered
Plaintiff's residual functional capacity, age, education,
and past work experience as well as testimony from the
vocational expert (Tr. 22-23). The ALJ found that Plaintiff
is capable of performing a significant number of jobs that
exist in the national economy (Tr. 23). Therefore, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a
“disability, ” as defined in the Social Security
Act, from July 20, 2016, through the date of the decision
timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the
ALJ's decision (Tr. 266-67). The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision
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 “may 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. 1984)).
previously mentioned, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision
(Tr. 1-5). 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 ...