United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division
CRAIG A. DAVIS PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Brent Brennenstuhl, United States Magistrate Judge
the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Craig A. Davis
(“Plaintiff") seeking judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). Both the Plaintiff (DN 17) and Defendant (DN 22) have
filed a Fact and Law Summary. For the reasons that follow,
the final decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED and this
matter is REMANDED, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to
the Commissioner for further proceedings.
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 13). By Order
entered July 19, 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.
protectively filed applications for Disability Insurance
Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on April 24, 2014
(Tr. 21, 223, 230). Plaintiff alleged that he became disabled
on February 2, 2014, as a result of neuropathy, diabetes,
high blood pressure, depression, bone deterioration of mouth
area, and groin pain (Tr. 21, 249). Administrative Law Judge
Jennifer B. Thomas (“ALJ") conducted a video
hearing from Paducah, Kentucky, on April 12, (Tr. 21, 37-39).
Plaintiff and his attorney, Gerald Burns, participated from
Madisonville, Kentucky (Id.). Stephanie G. Barnes,
Rh. D., testified as an impartial vocational expert during
the hearing (Id.).
decision dated July 12, 2017, the ALJ evaluated this adult
disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential
evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr.
21-30). At the first step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 2,
2014 the alleged onset date (Tr. 23). At the second step, the
ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following severe
impairments: diabetes mellitus; diabetic peripheral
neuropathy; anxiety; affective disorder; and borderline
intellectual functioning (Id.). The ALJ also
determined that Plaintiff's hypertension and
hypercholesterol are non-severe impairments (Tr. 23-24). 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. 24).
fourth step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work except that he can
frequently handle, finger, and feel with the upper
extremities; he can reach overhead and all around with his
right upper extremity; he can occasionally climb ramps and
stairs, but should never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds;
he can frequently balance, and occasionally kneel, stoop,
crouch, and crawl; he can understand, remember, and carry out
simple, routine tasks in two-hour segments of time in an
8-hour workday for task completion purposes that are not at a
production or quota rate; he can frequently interact with
coworkers and supervisors, and occasionally interact with the
public (Tr. 25). Relying on testimony from the vocational
expert, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is not able to perform
any of his past relevant work (Tr. 29).
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. 29-30). The ALJ found that Plaintiff
is capable of performing a significant No. of jobs that exist
in the national economy (Id.). Therefore, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a
“disability," as defined in the Social Security
Act, from February 2, 2014 through the date of the decision
(Tr. 30). PLAINTIFF timely filed a request for the Appeals
Council to review the ALJ's decision (Tr. 221-22). The
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review
of Review Review 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. 1-3). 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 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
Commissioner's Sequential Evaluation Process
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. §§
404.1505(a), 416.905(a); Barnhart v. Walton, 535
U.S. 212, 214 (2002); Abbott v. Sullivan, 905 F.2d
918, 923 (6th Cir. 1990).
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. §§ ...