United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Brent Brennenstuhl United States Magistrate Judge
the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Brandon Johnson seeking
judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both the Plaintiff (DN
13) and Defendant (DN 18) have filed a Fact and Law Summary.
For the reasons that follow, the undersigned orders that
judgment be granted in favor of the commissioner.
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 11). By Order
entered July 23, 2018 (DN 12), 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.
filed an application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits on October 2, 2014 (Tr. 27).
Johnson alleged that he became disabled on September 1, 2014
as a result of back pain, pinched nerve in left leg,
depression, chronic pain, headaches, Attention Deficit
Hyperactive Disorder, neck pain, numbness in left leg,
anxiety (Tr. 105). Administrative Law Judge Maribeth McMahon
("ALJ") conducted a hearing on June 1, 2017 via
video conference from Paducah, Kentucky. Plaintiff appeared
from Madisonville, Kentucky and is represented by Brent
Yonts. Also present and testifying was James Adams, M.A., an
impartial vocational expert.
decision dated November 21, 2017, the ALJ evaluated this
adult disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential
evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr.
27-41). At the first step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 1,
2014, the alleged onset date (Tr. 29). At the second step,
the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's degenerative disc
disease, right-sided hearing loss, depression, anxiety, and
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ("DHD) are
“severe” impairments within the meaning of the
regulations (Tr. 29). 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. 30).
fourth step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work (Tr. 32). More
specifically, the ALJ found that Plaintiff can lift or carry
20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; stand or
walk with normal breaks for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday;
push or pull consistent with lifting or carrying weights. He
can perform frequent overhead reaching bilaterally. He can
occasionally push or pull with lower extremities, He can
never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds, but can occasionally
climb ramps and stairs. He can occasionally stoop, kneel,
crouch, and crawl. He can frequently balance. He should avoid
concentrated exposure to vibrations and loud noises. He is
able to understand, remember and carry out simple
instructions. He is able to maintain attention and
concentration for the time required to complete simple tasks.
He is able to work in coordination with or in proximity to
others without being distracted by them. He can complete a
normal workweek without excessive interruptions from
psychologically based symptoms. He is able to respond
appropriately to supervisors and coworkers but can have only
occasional contact with the public. He is able to adapt to
routine changes and avoid hazards in a work setting with
routine support and structure. (Tr. 32). Relying on testimony
from the vocational expert, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is
unable to perform any of his past relevant work as a coal
miner, lineman, material handler, and tree cutter (Tr. 40).
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. 40). The ALJ found that Plaintiff is
capable of performing a significant number of jobs that exist
in the national economy (Tr. 40). Therefore, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a
“disability, ” as defined in the Social Security
Act, from September 1, 2014 through the date of the decision
timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the
ALJ's decision (Tr. 204-205). The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision
by the 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)).
previously mentioned, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision
(Tr. __). At that point, the ALJ's decision 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 ...