United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London
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 and the parties' dispositive motions, and for
the reasons set forth herein, will affirm
the Commissioner's decision.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
17, 2015, Plaintiff James Edward Brown protectively filed for
a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits
(DIB) under Title II, and on January 28, 2016, similarly
filed for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI.
(Tr. 11, 208-25). Each application alleged disability
beginning on May 2, 2015, when Plaintiff was forty-four (44)
years old. (Tr. 18, 208-25). Both applications were initially
denied, and again on reconsideration. (Tr. 130, 140-54). At
Plaintiff's request, an administrative hearing was
conducted on April 20, 2017 before Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ) Dennis Hansen. (Tr. 55-83). On June 19, 2017, ALJ
Hansen ruled that Plaintiff was not entitled to benefits.
(Tr. 11-20). This decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner on January 16, 2018, when the Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. 1-7).
filed the instant action on February 20, 2018 alleging that
the ALJ's decision was not supported by substantial
evidence, contrary to law, and applied the incorrect
standards. (Doc. # 2). The matter has culminated in
cross-motions for summary judgment, which are now ripe for
adjudication. (Docs. # 11 and 13).
Standard of Review
review of the Commissioner's decision is restricted to
determining whether it is supported by substantial evidence
and was made pursuant to proper legal standards. See
Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 729 (6th Cir. 2007).
“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.” Cutlip
v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284,
286 (6th Cir. 1994). 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, as long as it is
supported by substantial evidence, even if the Court might
have decided the case differently. 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
& 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's Determination
determine disability, the ALJ conducts a five-step analysis.
Step One considers whether the claimant has engaged in
substantial gainful activity; Step Two, whether any of the
claimant's impairments, alone or in combination, 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 a significant number of
other jobs exist in the national economy that the claimant
can perform. Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127
F.3d 525, 529 (6th Cir. 1997) (citing 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520). The burden of proof rests with the claimant on
Steps One through Four. Jones v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). As to the last
step, the burden of proof shifts to the Commissioner to
identify “jobs in the economy that accommodate [the
claimant's] residual functional capacity.”
Id. The ALJ's determination becomes the final
decision of the Commissioner if the Appeals Council denies
review, as it did here. See Thacker v. Berryhill,
No. 16-CV-114, 2017 WL 653546, at *1 (E.D. Ky. Feb. 16,
2017); (Tr. 1-7).
at Step One, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since May 2, 2015, the alleged
onset date of the disability. (Tr. 13). At Step Two, the ALJ
determined that the Plaintiff has the following severe
impairments: history of cardiovascular accident (CVA),
hypertension with history of heart disease, kidney disease
with history of kidney stones, gout, obesity, anxiety, and
depression. (Tr. 13). The ALJ determined that
Plaintiff's alleged sinusitis, diabetes, hyperlipidemia,
and vitamin D deficiency were non-severe impairments because
they did not cause “more than minimal work related
limitations.” (Tr. 13). At Step Three, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meet or medically equal the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. §
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 13-15).
Four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff possesses the residual
functional capacity (RFC) to perform work at the light
exertional level as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1567(b), 416.967(b), with the following modifications and
[C]laimant can occasionally climb ramps and stairs; and can
occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. He can
occasionally be exposed to extreme cold, extreme heat,
humidity, and wetness. The claimant can never climb ladders,
ropes or scaffolds; and can never be exposed to unprotected
heights or dangerous moving machinery, and can never operate
a motor vehicle at work. He can understand and remember
simple instructions; and can sustain attention and
concentration to complete simple tasks with regular breaks
every two hours. The claimant can interact as needed with
supervisors and coworkers and occasionally interact with the
public. He can adapt to routine work conditions and
occasional work place changes.
(Tr. 15). Based on this RFC and relying on the testimony of a
vocational expert (VE), the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was
unable to perform his past relevant work as an apartment
maintenance worker and auto mechanic. (Tr. 18). Thus, the ALJ
proceeded to Step Five where he determined, informed by
testimony of the VE, that there were other jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that the
Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 18-19). ...