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Curry v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

August 2, 2018

BRETT CURRY, PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DAVID L. BUNNING UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff 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 substantial evidence.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On January 28, 2014, Plaintiff Brett Curry filed an application for supplemental security income (“SSI”), alleging disability beginning on June 1, 1994. (Tr. 70). Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that he was limited in his ability to work due to the following: “ADHD, ” “ADD, ” “ODD, ” an eating disorder, a sleeping disorder, depression, and “PDD.” (Tr. 278).

         Plaintiff's claims were denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. 83, 110-15, 124-31). At Plaintiff's request, an administrative hearing was conducted on April 22, 2016, before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Karen R. Jackson. (Tr. 36-68). On August 29, 2016, ALJ Jackson ruled that Plaintiff was not entitled to benefits. (Tr. 10-18). This decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied review on September 28, 2017. (Tr. 1-6).

         On October 29, 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. # 10 and 12).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Overview of the Process

         Judicial 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).

         The 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).

         B. The ALJ's Determination

         At Step One, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 28, 2014.[1] (Tr. 12). At Step Two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: “attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder; history of schizophrenia; Asperger's disorder; anxiety disorder; and depressive disorder (20 CFR 416.920(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 (416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926)." Id.

         At Step Four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform “a full range of work at all exertional levels” with the non-exertional limitations as follows:

The claimant is able to perform work that requires object-focused work environment in which contact with co-workers and supervisors is casual and occasional in a non-public work setting. He is able to perform work that requires simple routine work tasks. He is able to perform work that requires attention and concentration for two-hour segments during an eight-hour workday. He is able to adapt to gradual changes in a routine ...

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