United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. Reeves United States District Judge
matter is pending for consideration of cross-motions for
summary judgment filed by Plaintiff Rickey Dean Richardson
and Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration. [Record Nos. 10, 12]
Richardson contends that the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) erred in concluding that he was not
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.
Specifically, he asserts that the ALJ did not properly
evaluate his subjective complaints of pain and that the
ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial evidence.
The Commissioner denies these claims and argues that the
ALJ's decision should be affirmed.
reasons that follow, the Commissioner's motion will be
granted and Richardson's motion will be denied.
filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act
(“the Act”) on March 17, 2014. [See
Administrative Transcript, hereinafter “Tr., ”
169.] Richardson requested an administrative hearing before
an ALJ after the application was denied initially and on
reconsideration. [Tr. 114, 123, 130] He appeared before ALJ
Davida Isaacs in Lexington, Kentucky in November 2016. [Tr.
64-82] Following the administrative hearing, ALJ Isaacs
denied benefits in a written decision on February 23, 2017.
[Tr. 40-57] The Appeals Council affirmed this decision in
January 2018. [Tr. 1-4] The matter is now ripe for review
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
was fifty-one-years-old at the time of his application for
benefits. [See Tr. 169.] He has an eighth-grade
education and has worked for approximately 27 years driving a
coal truck. [Tr. 69-70] In addition to driving coal trucks,
Richardson reported that he helped service them, which
required lifting 50-pound cans of oil and 250-pound tires.
[Tr. 70] He advised the ALJ that his back had been hurting
for six to eight years, and that the pain had gotten worse
over time. Id. He stated that he had constant pain
from his waist to his shoulder blades, as well as numbness in
his legs. [Tr. 71]
stopped working on January 27, 2014, because he was laid off.
[Tr. 189-90] However, he stated that the following conditions
were severe enough, as of that date, to prevent him from
working: “back injury; nerve problems; knee problems;
very hard of hearing; [and] slow learner.” [Tr. 189-90]
Collins, M.D., was Richardson's primary care provider.
Richardson testified that Collins had treated him for 20
years, but the record only contains notes dating back to
2009. [See Tr. 561-633, 660-74, 677.] Collins
prescribed Richardson medications for problems including back
pain and hypertension. See Id. An x-ray performed in
March 2014 revealed moderate degenerative changes in the
Claimant's cervical spine. [Tr. 537] Richardson underwent
an MRI a few months later, which revealed moderate disc
herniation at ¶ 2-C3, a mild annular bulge at ¶
3-C4, and small central herniation at ¶ 4-C5, C5-C6, and
C6-C7. [Tr. 533] The report also noted that Richardson had
severe degenerative joint disease at ¶ 6-C7.
Id. A hip x-ray performed in March 2014 was normal,
and a shoulder study revealed mild osteoarthritis. [Tr. 538,
was involved in an ATV accident in June 2014 and underwent
imagining to rule out fractures. [Tr. 693] A CT scan revealed
a renal mass, which was determined to be cancerous. [Tr. 701,
426-33] Richardson's right kidney was subsequently
removed, and he had no recurrence of cancer. [Tr. 530]
submitted a medical source statement in March 2015. He
reported that Richardson's ability to perform
work-related activities was significantly impaired due to
severe degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine. [Tr.
541-43] Specifically, he opined that Richardson could not
stand or sit for longer than five or ten minutes without
interruption. [Tr. 541-42] He also reported that Richardson
could never climb, balance, stoop, crouch, kneel, crawl, or
be exposed to various environmental hazards. [Tr. 542] It is
unclear whether Collins relied on diagnostic or other
objective evidence, but a CT scan of the lumbar spine in June
2014 revealed that Richardson had “multilevel
spondylosis of the lumbar spine.” [Tr. 735]
consultant Dustin Johnson, M.D., examined Richardson in July
2014. [Tr. 421] Richardson exhibited stooped posture and
labored gait at that time, but he did not use an assistive
device. [Tr. 422] He had no difficulty getting on or off of
the examination table and answered all questions
appropriately. Id. His strength was five-out-of-five
throughout his upper and lower extremities and his sensation
was normal. [Tr. 422-23] Richardson had “some
difficulty” squatting in addition to heel-to-toe and
tandem walking. [Tr. 423] His ability to laterally flex his
neck was limited to 30 degrees bilaterally and his lumbar
flexion was limited to 70 degrees. Id.
concluded that Richardson had the ability to perform
activities involving sitting, standing, moving about,
handling objects, hearing, and speaking. Johnson further
noted that Richardson had normal upper extremity strength,
including normal manipulation and grip strength, but felt
that he might have some difficulty performing activities
involving lifting or carrying. [Tr. 423]
Hoskins, M.D., examined Richardson at his attorney's
request in August 2014. [Tr. 502] Hoskins observed that
Richardson bore weight through his upper extremities while
sitting and bore decreased weight through his left leg while
standing. [Tr. 503] His posture was “somewhat stooped
forward” and he ambulated slowly, but there were no
“major deviations” from normal. [Tr. 503-04] His