Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Williams v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division

December 12, 2018

LINDA WILLIAMS PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          H. Brent Brennenstuhl, United States Magistrate Judge

         BACKGROUND

         Before the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Linda Williams seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both the Plaintiff (DN 14) and Defendant (DN 19) have filed a Fact and Law Summary. For the reasons that follow, the undersigned orders that judgment be granted for the Commissioner.

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, the parties have consented to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge conducting all further proceedings in this case, including issuance of a memorandum opinion and entry of judgment, with direct review by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in the event an appeal is filed (DN 10). By Order entered May 30, 2018 (DN 11), the parties were notified that oral arguments would not be held unless a written request was filed and granted. No such request was filed.

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         Williams filed an application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), on April 11, 2011 (DN 9-5 PageID # 292). The application claimed Williams's disability began on March 14, 2011 and is the result of a “weak heart” and “breathing problems” (DN 9-6 PageID # 342-346). Administrative Law Judge Kevin R. Martin (ALJ) conducted a hearing on May 23, 2013 (DN 9-2 PageID # 130-184). Williams was present and testified. (Id. at 137). Sharon Lane was also present and testified as an impartial vocational expert (Id. at 176).

         In a decision dated August 1, 2013, ALJ Martin evaluated Williams's disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Id. at 112). At the first step, the ALJ found Williams has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 11, 2011, the application date (Id. at 114). At the second step, the ALJ determined that Williams has the following severe impairments: non-ischemic cardiomyopathy status post single chamber automated implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, hypertension, emphysema; and degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine (Id.). At the third step, the ALJ concluded that Williams does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the impairments listed in 20 CFR 404, Subpart P. Appendix 1 (Id. at 115).

         At the fourth step, the ALJ found Williams has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) with certain limited exceptions (Id. at 116). The ALJ determined Williams can perform past relevant work as an insurance specialist and other jobs in available in the national economy (Id. at 121-122). The ALJ ruled Williams has not been under a disability since April 11, 2011 (Id. at 123).

         Williams timely filed a request to the Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision (DN 9-10 PageID # 1342). Her request was denied (Id.). Williams then sought review of the decision from this Court. This Court reversed the Commissioner's decision and remanded the matter for further consideration (Id. at 1349).

         The ALJ reconsidered Williams's case and issued an unfavorable opinion (DN 9-9 PageID # 1241). The ALJ reached the same conclusions at steps 1-3 and the residual functional capacity at the fourth step as the first decision. However, the new ruling found Williams had no past relevant work. (Id. at 1245-1256). At the fifth step, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show there is a significant number of jobs in the national economy. Here, the ALJ found that Williams can perform a significant number of jobs in the national economy (Id. at 1255-1256). The ALJ found Williams has not been under a disability from April 11, 2011 through the date of the decision, March 8, 2017 (Id. at 1256). The Appeals Council again denied Williams's request for review (Id. at 1235). Williams returns to this Court to reverse and/or remand the ALJ's decision (DN 14-1 PageID # 2211).

         CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

         Standard of Review

         Review by this Court is limited to determining whether the findings set forth in the final decision of the Commissioner are supported by “substantial evidence, ” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Cotton v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 692, 695 (6th Cir. 1993); Wyatt v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 974 F.2d 680, 683 (6th Cir. 1992), and whether the correct legal standards were applied. Landsaw v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 803 F.2d 211, 213 (6th Cir. 1986). “Substantial evidence exists when a reasonable mind could accept the evidence as adequate to support the challenged conclusion, even if that evidence could support a decision the other way.” Cotton, 2 F.3d at 695 (quoting Casey v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 987 F.2d 1230, 1233 (6th Cir. 1993)). In reviewing a case for substantial evidence, the Court “may not try the case de novo, nor resolve conflicts in evidence, nor decide questions of credibility.” Cohen v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 964 F.2d 524, 528 (6th Cir. 1992) (quoting Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984)).

         As previously mentioned, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (DN 14-1 PageID # 1235). When the Appeals Council denied Williams's request for review of the ALJ's decision, it became the final decision of the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.955(b), 404.981, 422.210(a); See 42 U.S.C. § 405(h) (finality of the Commissioner's decision). Thus, the Court will be reviewing the decision of the ALJ, not the Appeals Council, and the evidence that was in the administrative record when the ALJ rendered the decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); 20 C.F.R. § 404.981; Cline v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 96 F.3d 146, 148 (6th Cir. 1996); Cotton v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 692, 695-696 (6th Cir. 1993).

         The Commissioner's Sequential Evaluation Process The Social Security Act authorizes payment of Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income to persons with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq. (Title II Disability Insurance Benefits), 1381 et seq. (Title XVI Supplemental Security Income). The term “disability” is defined as an

[I]nability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve (12) months.

42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A) (Title II), 1382c(a)(3)(A) (Title XVI); 20 C.F.R. § 416.905(a); Barnhart v. Walton, 535 U.S. 212, 214 (2002); Abbott v. Sullivan, 905 F.2d 918, 923 (6th Cir. 1990).

         The Commissioner has promulgated regulations setting forth a five-step sequential evaluation process for evaluating a disability claim. See “Evaluation of disability in general, ” 20 C.F.R. §416.920. The evaluation proceeds as follows:

1) Is the plaintiff engaged in substantial gainful activity?
2) Does the plaintiff have a medically determinable impairment or combination of impairments that satisfies the duration requirement and significantly limits his or her ability to do basic work activities?
3) Does the plaintiff have an impairment that meets or medically equals the criteria of a listed impairment within Appendix 1?
4) Does the plaintiff have the residual functional capacity to return to his or her past relevant work?
5) Does the plaintiff's residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience allow him or her to perform a significant number of jobs in the national economy?

Here, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's claim at the fifth step (DN 9-9 PageID # 1255-56).

         Challenged Findings

         Williams is now challenging the ALJ's finding that she has the residual functional capacity to perform a range of light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §967(b), with certain limitations. Specifically, Williams alleges the ALJ erroneously discounted the opinion of her treating physician, Dr. Paul Moore, and gave strong weight to the opinion of Dr. David Swan, the non-examining state agency physician. (DN 14-1 Page ID # 2211-2218). Williams also contests the ALJ's finding at step five that she can perform a significant amount of jobs in the national economy (DN 14-1 PageID # 2223).

         A. Step Four

         1. Williams's Argument

         Williams argues the weight assigned to the opinion of her treating physician, Dr. Paul Moore, is not supported by substantial evidence. Williams complains that the ALJ's decision was based on inconsistencies between the controlling physicians' opinion and objective medical evidence but adds that the ALJ “provided no reasoning as to why any of this evidence was so inconsistent to not afford great or controlling weight to Dr. Moore's opinion” (Id. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.