United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington
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
March 11, 2013, Plaintiff Jona Kessans filed an application
for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”),
alleging disability beginning on October 5, 2010. (Tr.
316-17). Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that she was limited
in her ability to work due the following:
“Asperger's syndrome, ptsd-mst, orthopedic issues,
etc.”; “Asperger's Syndrome”;
“PTSD - MST includes MDD and Anxiety”; Cervical
and Thoracic Spine Injuries”; “Left Knee
Injury”; “Asthma & Chronic Bronchitis”;
and “Right Hip Injury.” (Tr. 358).
claims were denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr.
111-14, 116-23). At Plaintiff's request, an
administrative hearing was conducted on June 27, 2016, before
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Peter J. Boylan.
(Tr. 39-79). On August 1, 2016, ALJ Boylan ruled that
Plaintiff was not entitled to benefits. (Tr. 12-38). This
decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when
the Appeals Council denied review on September 14, 2017. (Tr.
November 6, 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. # 9 and 14).
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 from October 5, 2010
through her date last insured, December 31, 2015. (Tr. 17).
At Step Two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the
following severe impairments: “degenerative disc
disease, arthopathy, obesity, asthma, headaches, affective
disorder, anxiety disorder, personality disorder, and
Asperger's syndrome (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).”
Id. At Step Three, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff
did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
“met or medically equaled 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, and 404.1526.” (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), with
the exertional and non-exertional limitations as follows:
[S]he could never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and was
limited to frequent balancing and stooping, and to occasional
kneeling, crouching, crawling, and climbing of ramps and
stairs. The claimant was limited to occasional overhead
reaching bilaterally. She had to avoid concentrated exposure
to extreme cold, extreme heat, humidity, fumes, odors, dusts,
gases, poor ventilation, and workplace hazards such as
dangerous machinery and unprotected heights. The claimant was
limited to simple routine tasks and was not able to perform
at a production rate pace such as generally associated with
jobs like assembly line work, but could perform goal oriented
work such as generally associated with jobs like office
cleaner. She was limited to simple work-related decisions and
to occasional and ...