United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London
MICHAEL L. SIZEMORE PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner of Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
L. BUNNING, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g)
and 1383(c)(3) 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
April 21, 2015, Plaintiff Michael L. Sizemore filed a Title
II application for a period of disability and disability
insurance benefits. (Tr. 200-207). The application alleged a
disability onset date of April 20, 2010, when Sizemore was
thirty-four years old.(Tr. 200). Sizemore alleged that he was
unable to work due to a severe concussion he sustained, as
well as a back injury, neck injury, injuries to his
shoulders, a left-knee injury, major depression, liver
disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and high blood pressure. (Tr.
239). The application was denied initially and on
reconsideration. (Tr. 134, 145). At Plaintiff's request,
an administrative hearing was conducted on January 26, 2017,
before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Dennis Hansen. (Tr.
39). On May 11, 2017, ALJ Hansen ruled that Plaintiff was not
entitled to benefits because he was not disabled within the
meaning of the Social Security Act through September 30,
2014, the date last insured. (Tr. 21-33). This decision
became the final decision of the Commissioner on March 20,
2018, when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review. (Tr. 1).
filed the instant action on April 25, 2018, alleging that the
ALJ's decision was not supported by substantial evidence,
was contrary to law, and applied the incorrect standards.
(Doc. # 2 at 2). The matter has culminated in cross-motions
for summary judgment, which are now ripe for adjudication.
(Docs. # 13 and 15).
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 and 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).
as an initial matter, the ALJ found that Plaintiff Sizemore
last met the insured status requirements of the Social
Security Act on September 30, 2014. (Tr. 27). At Step One,
the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not engage in substantial
gainful activity during the period from his alleged onset
date of April 21, 2014, through the last-insured date of
September 30, 2014. Id. At Step Two, the ALJ
determined that the Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments through the last-insured Dated: degenerative disc
disease, rheumatoid arthritis, status post-bilateral shoulder
surgery, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress
disorder. Id. At Step Three, the ALJ concluded that,
through the date last insured, Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
Four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff possessed the residual
functional capacity (RFC) through the last-insured date to
perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1567(b), with the following limitations:
[Sizemore] can never reach overhead; can frequently reach in
all other directions; can frequently climb, stoop, kneel,
crouch, and crawl; can frequently handle, finger, and feel
[and] [m]entally, he can understand and remember simple
instructions and carry out simple tasks.
(Tr. 29). Based upon this RFC and relying upon the testimony
of a vocational expert (VE), the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff
was unable to perform his past relevant work as a company
laborer and machine mechanic. (Tr. 32). Thus, the ALJ
proceeded to Step Five where he determined, informed by the
testimony of the VE, that there were other jobs that existed
in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
Sizemore could have performed through the last-insured date.
Id. Accordingly, ALJ Hansen ruled that Plaintiff was
not entitled to ...