United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
GREGORY F. VAN TATENHOVE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Corley seeks judicial review of an administrative decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security, which denied his claim
for disability insurance benefits. Mr. Corley brings this
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), alleging errors
on the part of the ALJ considering the matter. The Court,
having reviewed the record and for the reasons set forth
herein, will DENY Mr. Corley's Motion
for Summary Judgment and GRANT the
William Corley initially filed an application for Title II
disability insurance on October 29, 2015, alleging disability
beginning on March 31, 2014. [Transcript (hereinafter,
“Tr.") 117.] His claim was initially denied on
January 15, 2016, reconsidered on April 22, 2016, and a
hearing was held on November 14, 2016. Id.
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Roger L. Reynolds denied his
request for benefits a month later. Id. at 114. The
Appeals Counsel reviewed the determination, found errors, and
remanded to the ALJ for additional consideration.
Id. at 133-37. Upon remand, ALJ Reynolds held
another hearing and again denied Mr. Corley's claim on
October 2, 2017. Id. at 10. He again petitioned
review from the Appeals Council, but this was denied,
rendering the October 2 decision final. Id. at 1-5.
evaluate a claim of disability for Title II disability
insurance benefit claims, an ALJ conducts a five-step
analysis. Compare 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520
(disability insurance benefit claim) with 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920 (claims for supplemental security
income). First, if a claimant is performing a
substantial gainful activity, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(b). Second, if a claimant does not have any
impairment or combination of impairments which significantly
limit his physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities, he does not have a severe impairment and is not
“disabled” as defined by the regulations. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). Third, if a claimant's
impairments meet or equal one of the impairments listed in 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, he is
“disabled.” C.F.R. § 404.1530(d). Before
moving on to the fourth step, the ALJ must use all of the
relevant evidence in the record to determine the
claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC), which
assess an individual's ability to perform certain
physical and metal work activities on a sustained basis
despite any impairment experienced by the individual.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e); 20 C.F.R. §
the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has the RFC to
perform the requirements of his past relevant work, and if a
claimant's impairments do not prevent him from doing past
relevant work, he is not “disabled.” 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(e). Fifth, if a claimant's impairments
(considering his RFC, age, education, and past work) prevent
him from doing other work that exists in the national
economy, then he is “disabled.” 20 C.F.R. §
step four of the analysis, “the claimant bears the
burden of proving the existence and severity of limitations
caused by her impairments and the fact that she is precluded
from performing her past relevant work.” Jones v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir.
2003). At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to
identify a significant number of jobs that accommodate the
claimant's profile, but the claimant retains the ultimate
burden of proving his lack of residual functional capacity.
Id.; Jordan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 548
F.3d 417, 423 (6th Cir. 2008).
outset of this case, the ALJ determined that Mr. Corley met
the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act
through March 31, 2020. Tr. 12; see also 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.131. Then, at step one, ALJ Reynolds found Mr.
Corley had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since
the alleged disability onset date, March 31, 2014. Tr. 12. At
step two, the ALJ found Mr. Corley to suffer from the
following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of
the cervical and lumbar spine; eczema; posttraumatic stress
disorder; right shoulder degenerative joint disease; status
post recent left shoulder fracture; obstructive sleep apnea;
status post fracture of left ankle; mild traumatic brain
injury; right kidney failure; hypertension; and chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease. Id. at 12-13. At step
three, the ALJ determined his combination of impairments did
not meet or medically equal one the severity of one of the
listed impairments n 20 C.F.R. Part 404 or Part 416.
Id. at 13. Before moving on to step four, the ALJ
considered the record and determined that Mr. Corley
possessed the following residual functioning capacity (RFC):
After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that [Mr. Corley] has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(b). The claimant can lift, carry, push or pull
no more than 20 pounds occasionally and up to 10 pounds
frequently; stand and walk six hours in an eight-hour
workday; and sit six hours in an eight-hour workday. The
Claimant can do no climbing of ropes, ladders or scaffolds
and he is limited to occasional climbing of stairs or ramps,
occasional balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching or
crawling. He can do no work with hands over the head, no
operation of foot pedal controls and no exposure to
concentrated vibration or industrial hazards. There must be
no exposure to concentrated dust, gases, smoke, fumes,
temperature extremes or excess humidity. He requires entry
level work with simple repetitive procedures and can tolerate
only occasional changes in work routines; there should be no
requirement for detailed or complex problem solving,
independent planning or the setting of goals, and he should
work in an object-oriented environment with only occasional
and casual contact with coworkers, supervisors or the general
Id. at 16. After explaining the RFC, the ALJ found
at step four that, based on his RFC, age, education, and work
experience, Mr. Corley was not capable of performing past
relevant work as an Army food inspector and combat
soldier/medic, but was capable of performing other jobs
existing in the national economy. Id. at 21-22.
Accordingly, the ALJ found at step five that Mr. Corley was
not disabled from March 31, 2014, through the date of the
decision, pursuant to 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g).
Id. at 23. Mr. Corley filed this action for review
on March 16, 2018. [R. 1.]
Court's review is generally limited to whether there is
substantial evidence in the record to support the ALJ's
decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Wright v.
Massanari, 321 F.3d 611, 614 (6th Cir. 2003);
Shelman v. Heckler, 821 F.2d 316, 319-20 (6th Cir.
1987). “Substantial evidence” is “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) (citing Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). The substantial evidence standard
“presupposes that there is a zone of choice within
which [administrative] decision makers can go either way,
without interference by the courts.” Mullen v.
Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986) (quoting
Baker v. Heckler, 730 F.2d 1147, 1150 (8th Cir.
determine whether substantial evidence exists, courts must
examine the record as a whole. Cutlip, 25 F.3d at
286 (citing Kirk v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 667 F.2d 524, 535 (6th Cir. 1981), cert.
denied, 461 U.S. 957 (1983)). However, a reviewing court
may not conduct a de novo review, resolve conflicts
in the evidence, or make credibility determinations.
Ulman v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 693 F.3d 709, 713
(6th Cir. 2012); see also Bradley v. Sec'y of Health
& Human Servs., 862 F.2d 1224, 1228 (6th Cir. 1988).
Rather, if the Commissioner's decision is supported by
substantial evidence, it must be affirmed even if the
reviewing court would decide the matter differently, and even
if substantial evidence also ...