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Caldwell v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, London

February 15, 2019

HAROLD DEAN CALDWELL, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Joseph M. Hood Senior U.S. District Judge

         Plaintiff Harold Dean Caldwell 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, will AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision, as it is supported by substantial evidence.

         I.

         Judicial review of the Commissioner's decision is limited to determining whether it is supported by substantial evidence and was made pursuant to proper legal standards. Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994). “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.” Id. Courts are not to conduct a de novo review, resolve conflicts in the evidence, or make credibility determinations. Id. Rather, we are to affirm the Commissioner's decision, provided it is supported by substantial evidence, even if we might have decided the case differently. See Her v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 203 F.3d 388, 389-90 (6th Cir. 1999).

         The ALJ, in determining disability, conducts a five-step analysis. See Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). Step One considers whether the claimant is still performing substantial gainful activity; Step Two, whether any of the claimant's impairments 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 significant numbers of other jobs exist in the national economy which the claimant can perform. As to the last step, the burden of proof shifts from the claimant to the Commissioner. Id.; see also Preslar v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994).

         II.

         In January 2014, Plaintiff filed a Title XVI application for supplemental security income (“SSI”), alleging disability as of March 1, 2010 (Tr. 318). Plaintiff later amended his alleged disability date to January 15, 2014, the date of his current protective filing for SSI (Tr. 149). Plaintiff's claims were denied initially and on reconsideration (Tr. 222-223). After a hearing (Tr. 147-178), an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) reviewed the evidence of record and denied plaintiff's application (Tr. 12-33). The ALJ's decision became the final determination of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council declined review of it.

         III.

         Statement of the Facts

         Plaintiff was 40 years old when he allegedly became disabled on January 15, 2014 (as amended), and 42 years old as of the Commissioner's final decision on April 26, 2016 (Tr. 318). Plaintiff has an 11th grade education and past relevant work as a heating and air conditioning technician, laborer (machine operator), and loader operator (dump truck driver) (Tr. 172, 344). In conjunction with his current application, Plaintiff initially alleged he was unable to work due to numerous physical impairments, as well as depression (Tr. 343).

         (a) Medical records relevant to Plaintiff's alleged impairments

         A large part of the medical evidence in the administrative record concerns a prior period, which resulted in a previous ALJ's decision that Plaintiff was not disabled through October 5, 2012 (Tr. 182-195).

         During the current administrative proceedings, late February 2014 treatment notes indicate that Plaintiff had sciatica pain with complaints of numbness in his legs (Tr. 597).

         Also during the current administrative proceedings, in late March 2014, Kathleen M. Monderewicz, M.D. consultatively examined Plaintiff (Tr. 586-592). Dr. Monderewicz noted Plaintiff's complaints of a history of chronic lower back pain dating back to May 1992, which he reported as interfering with activities such as doing yard work. Plaintiff also reported problems with shortness of breath but did not use inhalers, nebulizers, or oxygen; with no emergency room treatment or hospitalizations for respiratory problems. Plaintiff also reported a diagnosis of Hepatitis C in 1999, ...


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