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Childress v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

August 9, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT


          H. Brent Brennenstuhl, United States Magistrate Judge


         Before the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Plaintiff Jason Childress seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both the PLAINTIFF (DN 14)[1] and Defendant (DN 20) have filed a Fact and Law Summary.

         Pursuant to General Order No. 2014-17, this matter has been referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge to review the Fact and Law Summaries and submit Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Recommendations. By Order entered February 12, 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 filed.


         Plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits on June 11, 2013 (Tr. 314). PLAINTIFF alleged that he became disabled on April 4, 2012 as a result of left leg nerve damage, degenerative disc disease, a bulging disc, and a herniated disc (Tr. 376). Administrative Law Judge Jonathan Stanley conducted an initial hearing on November 24, 2014 (Tr. 103). This hearing led to a partially favorable decision granting Plaintiff an award of benefits for a closed period (Tr. 166). Plaintiff appealed, and the Appeals Counsel remanded the case for additional consideration (Tr. 188). Specifically, the Appeals Counsel found that ALJ Stanley's opinion noted medical improvement based on an opinion from Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. William Witt (Tr. 189). However, the Appeals Counsel found the opinion nearly identical to another of Dr. Witt's opinions during the period Plaintiff was found to be disabled (Id.). The Appeals Counsel remanded for a determination of whether Plaintiff had indeed been disabled during the relevant period, and if so, whether that disability had come to an end (Id.).

         On June 9, 2016, ALJ Stanley conducted a second hearing in Lexington, Kentucky (Tr. 43). Plaintiff was present and represented by his attorney, Stacy Hibbard. Also present and testifying was Betty Hale, an impartial vocational expert.

         In a second decision dated September 6, 2016, the ALJ evaluated this adult disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr. 22-42). At the first step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 4, 2012, the alleged onset date (Tr. 27). At the second step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's obesity, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine with chronic low back pain/radiculopathy, status post discectomy, history of right shoulder pain, degenerative joint disease of the left wrist with pain, status post fusion with instrumentation, parasthesias of the left leg and ankle, degenerative joint disease of the knees bilaterally, degenerative joint disease of the left ankle, degenerative joint disease and pain in the feet bilaterally, depression, and anxiety disorder not otherwise specified are “severe” impairments within the meaning of the regulations (Tr. 27). 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. 28).

         At the fourth step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform a restricted range of light work with the following restrictions:

[H]e can frequently push and pull using the bilateral upper extremities; can occasionally push and pull using the bilateral lower extremities; can occasionally climb stairs and ramps, but cannot climb ropes, ladders and scaffolds; can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl; requires a handheld assistive device such as a cane for prolonged ambulation; can frequently reach overhead bilaterally; can frequently handle and finger using the non-dominant left hand; can occasionally operate foot controls; must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold, wetness, and vibration; cannot work at unprotected heights or around hazards such as heavy equipment; can understand, remember and carry out short, simple instructions and make simple work-related judgments; can maintain adequate attention and concentration to perform simple tasks on a sustained basis with normal supervision; can manage and tolerate simple changes in the workplace routine; can adapt to the pressures of simple routine work; and can interact occasionally with supervisors, coworkers and the general public

(Tr. 30). Relying on testimony from the vocational expert, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable to perform any of his past relevant work (Tr. 33).

         The ALJ proceeded to the fifth step where he considered Plaintiff's residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience as well as testimony from the vocational expert (Tr. 33). The ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of performing a significant No. of jobs that exist in the national economy (Tr. 33-34). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a “disability, ” as defined in the Social Security Act, from April 4, 2012, through the date of the decision (Tr. 34). PLAINTIFF timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision (Tr. 309). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1).


         Standard ...

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