United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
King, Magistrate Judge United States District Court.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Complaint
seeking judicial review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
of the final decision of the Commissioner denying his claim
for Social Security disability benefits. Plaintiff's fact
and law summaries is at Docket # 14, and Defendant's fact
and law summary is at Docket # 19. This matter is ripe for
determination. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction
of the undersigned Magistrate Judge to determine this case,
with any appeal lying before the Sixth Circuit Court of
Appeals. (Docket # 7).
argues that the administrative law judge (ALJ) erred in
giving great weight to the opinion of the Commissioner's
non-examining source that he can perform light work. The
argument is unpersuasive due to lack of any other opinion in
the administrative record regarding what Plaintiff can still
do despite his impairments and because there is no indication
that subsequent evidence rendered the non-examining source
the Court will AFFIRM the Commissioner's final decision
and DISMISS Plaintiff's complaint.
ALJ's decision on Plaintiff's disability
alleges disability due to degenerative disc disease, carpal
tunnel syndrome, and obesity. (Administrative Record
(“AR”), p. 145).
October 2014, Donna Sadler, M.D., reviewed the available
medical evidence at the request of the Commissioner and
completed the standard physical assessment form consistently
with an ability to perform light work. (AR, pp. 288-90).
May 2016 administrative hearing, the vocational expert (VE)
testified that an individual having Plaintiff's age,
education, and work experience, who is restricted to light
work, could perform a significant number of jobs in the
national economy, including laundry folder, monogram machine
tender, and electrical equipment inspector. (AR, p. 201). The
VE further testified that, if restricted to sedentary work,
the individual could perform the jobs of small product
sorter, escort vehicle driver, and jewelry stone setter. (AR,
p. 202). If restricted to only occasional use of the hands
for fine manipulative tasks such as handling and fingering,
the individual could still do the jobs identified above
except that the light inspector job would have to be replaced
with the job of children's attendant and the sedentary
setter job would have to be replaced with the job of
surveillance systems monitor. (Id.). The jobs allow
for some alternate sitting/standing provided the individual
can sit and stand for at least 30 minutes at a time.
June 2016 decision, the ALJ found that “[l]acking any
function-by-function work limitations set forth by any
treating source, the undersigned gives great weight to [Dr.
Sadler's] determination.” (AR, p. 152). The ALJ
found that Plaintiff is able to perform light work (AR, p.
146) and concluded that he is not disabled because, although
he can no longer perform past relevant work, he retains the
ability to perform a significant number of jobs in the
national economy (AR, p. 154). Examples of such jobs are
light laundry folder, monogram machine tender, and electrical
equipment inspector. (AR, p. 154).
argument is unpersuasive.
argues that the ALJ erred in giving “great”
weight to Dr. Sadler's October 2014 opinion (AR, p. 152)
because it failed to take into account significant
post-October 2014 medical evidence. Specifically, it did not
take into account evidence from board-certified neurologist
Thomas Gruber, M.D. (AR, pp. 799-813), board-certified doctor
of nursing practice, family nurse practitioner (DNP, FNP-BC)
M. Shane Rust (AR, pp. 718-98, 814), certified
physician's assistant (PA-C) Reetha Guminski (AR, pp.
101, 815- 22), and Lourdes Physical Therapy (AR, pp. 206-35,
“to whom it may concern” letter from April 2016,
Dr. Rust opined that Plaintiff will not recover enough to
resume the physically demanding duties of his job as an
electrician due to low back and neck pain, with radiation of
pain, numbness, and tingling into his legs and hands. (AR, p.
814). In April 2016, PA Guminski opined similarly. (AR, pp.
815-16). The ALJ found that Plaintiff cannot perform his past
relevant work as an electrician, which was medium. (AR, p.
argument is unpersuasive for three reasons.
the above medical evidence consists of raw medical findings
that contains no medical opinion regarding what Plaintiff can
still do despite his impairments (i.e., his
function-by-function work limitations). See 20
C.F.R. § 404.1527(a)(2) (Treatment notes do not qualify
as medical opinions unless they “reflect judgments
about the nature and severity of your impairment(s),
including your symptoms, diagnosis and prognosis, what you
can still do despite impairment(s), and your physical or
mental restrictions”). Neither Plaintiff, the ALJ, nor
the Court has the medical expertise necessary to opine
whether the raw medical findings do or do not preclude light
work. See Rudd v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 531
Fed.Appx. 719, ...