United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
Gregory F. Van Tatenhove United States District Judge.
Doug Ray Ford seeks judicial review of an administrative
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, which denied
Hardin's claims for supplemental security income benefits
and disability insurance benefits. Mr. Ford brings this
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), alleging various
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. Ford's motion for summary
judgment but will GRANT judgment in favor of the
Doug Ray Ford filed an application for disability insurance
benefits on November 20, 2014 alleging disability beginning
November 6, 2014 due to diabetes. [Tr. 19.] Mr. Ford's
motion for summary judgment explains that he suffers from
“acute diabetic emergencies that result in his passing
out suddenly, ” despite being “generally
compliant with his diabetic regimen.” [R. 13-2 at 3.]
These episodes occur approximately twice a week. Id.
Additionally, Mr. Ford experiences “pain, fatigue,
tingling, and numbness which interfere[s] with his
concentration.” Id. Mr. Ford's application
was denied initially and upon reconsideration. [Tr. 19,
78-81, 179.] Mr. Ford requested a hearing, which was held
before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Bonnie Kittinger on
October 14, 2016. [Tr. 34.] Following the hearing, ALJ Bonnie
Kittinger issued a final decision denying both of
Hardin's claims for benefits. [Tr. 15-27.]
evaluate a claim for disability insurance benefit claims, an
ALJ conducts a five-step analysis. See 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520. 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.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(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 assesses an individual's
ability to perform certain physical and mental 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. § 404.1545.
the ALJ must determine whether the clamant 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.; Jordon v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 548
F.3d 417, 423 (6th Cir. 2008).
Kittinger's written decision proceeds sequentially
through the five steps. [Tr. 22.] As an initial matter, the
ALJ found that Mr. Ford met the insured status requirements
of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2018.
Id. At the first step, ALJ Kittinger found that Mr.
Ford had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since
November 6, 2014, the alleged onset date. Id.
Although Mr. Ford did “small jobs for friends”
which reportedly consisted of five, eight-hour work days, the
work was not documented, and the ALJ found that it did not
rise to the level of substantial gainful activity.
at the second step, the ALJ found that Mr. Ford's
diabetes mellitus with hypoglycemic unawareness amounted to a
severe impairment. Id.; see 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(c). ALJ considered Mr. Ford's diagnoses
of hypertension, hyperthyroidism, hyperlipidemia, and
cataracts, but found that those ailments did not
“impose any significant work-related limitations of
function, ” and could not be considered
“severe.” [Tr. 22.] ALJ Kittinger also considered
Mr. Ford's depression by evaluating the four broad
functional areas set out in the disability regulations. She
found that Mr. Ford had no limitations in daily living
activities or social functioning, no episodes of
decompensation of extended duration, and only mild limitation
in concentration, persistence or pace, and noted that Mr.
Ford has not alleged mental impairment as the basis of his
disability claim. Id. The ALJ also credited the
diagnosis of Dr. Harold Pretorius, noting, “Harold
Pretorius, MD, who is both a medical doctor and a
psychologist, diagnosed depression; however, treatment
records do not show he has recommended mental health
treatment.” Id. Finding only mild limitation
in concentration, the ALJ found that Mr. Ford's mental
impairment of depression was non-severe. Id.
three, ALJ Kittinger found that Mr. Ford had the residual
functional capacity to perform medium work, except that he
should not climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds, and should
avoid dangerous machinery. [Tr. 23.] In making this
assessment, the ALJ found that Mr. Ford's impairments
could reasonably be expected to cause the issues he
described, such as fluctuations in blood sugar and passing
out. However, she did not completely credit Mr. Ford's
testimony concerning the intensity and limiting affects of
Mr. Ford's symptoms. Nor did she credit Dr.
Pretorius's opinions. While ALJ Kittinger recognized that
“Dr. Pretorius has treated the claimant for diabetes
for more than five years, ” she also found his medical
opinions to be “internally inconsistent, ” and
therefore afforded them only slight weight. [Tr. 24.]
the ALJ found that Mr. Ford was unable to perform any past
relevant work. [Tr. 25.] ALJ Kittinger credited the testimony
of vocational expert Ms. Goss, who testified that somebody
with Mr. Ford's characteristics could find work in the
national market as a representative, doing assembly or bench
work, or as a sorter or packer. [Tr. 56.] Considering the
record before her, ALJ Kittinger found that Mr. Ford has not
been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security
Act, from November 6, 2014 through the date of the decision.
[Tr. 26.] This appeal followed.