United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, at London
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. HOOD, SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Vada Jean Thomas brings this matter under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) seeking judicial review of an administrative decision
of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security. The Court,
having reviewed the record and the cross motions for summary
judgment filed by the parties, will REVERSE
and REMAND the Commissioner's decision
because for further explanation on the ALJ's finding
related to whether the claimant met the criteria in listing
1.04. Otherwise, the ALJ's determination on listing 12.06
is supported by substantial evidence and Thomas has failed to
demonstrate that she meets the criteria for listing 12.08.
Standard for Determining Disability
the Social Security Act, a disability is defined as
“inability 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 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A). In determining disability, an Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) uses 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 past relevant
work; and, if necessary, 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).
Procedural and Factual History
filed an application for disability insurance benefits (DIB)
and supplemental security income (SSI) on June 21, 2013,
alleging disability as of March 30, 2010. [TR 607-16]. Thomas
alleged disability due to major depression, post-traumatic
stress disorder, cervical disc disease, osteoarthritis,
short-term memory loss, and very limited use of her left arm.
[TR 629]. Thomas's claim was denied initially and upon
review. [TR 466-69, 531-44].
Relevant Medical Evidence
2012, Thomas was treated three times at Quantum Healthcare.
[TR 722-31]. Physical examinations at Quantum revealed that
Thomas suffered from back and shoulder pain, decreased range
of motion, difficulty standing up after sitting and
squatting, and a depressed mood. [Id.].
2013, Thomas was treated at the Little Flower Clinic for back
pain and depression. [TR 758-63]. An x-ray of Thomas's
back revealed narrowing of two vertebrae, which suggested
that Thomas suffered from degenerative disc disease. [TR
had two consultative exams with Dr. Barry Burchett, who
diagnosed Thomas with chronic back, hip, and shoulder pain,
and potential depression. [TR 739, 742, 749]. Additionally,
Dr. William Rigby diagnosed Thomas with PTSD, panic disorder,
and major depression. [TR 750-51, 754-55].
state agency psychologist Laura Cutler, Ph.D., found that
Thomas could understand, remember, and carry out simple
detailed instructions, could sustain attention for extended
two-hour segments for detailed tasks, could tolerate
occasional contact with coworkers and supervisors in
nonpublic settings, and could adapt to routine changes as
needed. [TR 447]. The assessment of state agency psychologist
Jermaine Robertson, Ph.D., was largely in accord with Dr.
Cutler's assessment. [TR 486].
submitted two function reports and a pain questionnaire as
part of her application for benefits. [TR 644-57, 674-82]. On
the questionnaire, Thomas reported daily “sharp,
burning, knifelike” pain in her back, hips, knees, left
shoulder, and neck that began after a car accident in 2005.
[TR 644-45]. Thomas reported difficulty with walking, travel,
regular housework, and yard work, among other difficulties.
[TR 646]. Thomas also reported difficulty with using her left
arm and reported that she spent a significant amount of time
sitting. [TR 647-48]. Thomas's second questionnaire
contained similar information but emphasized Thomas's
mental health issues and limitations. [TR 674-82].
2014, state agency physician Dr. Amanda Lange reviewed the
record evidence and concluded that, while Thomas had
exertional and postural limitations, she could occasionally
lift and carry up to twenty pounds, could stand or walk with
normal breaks for about six hours in an eight-hour workday,
and could frequently stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. [TR
483]. Still, Dr. Lange noted that Thomas was limited in
reaching to the left overhead. [Id.].
Thomas received additional treatment from Quantum Healthcare
in 2014. [TR 773, 776, 778, 781, 783]. On February 25, 2014,
Thomas reported that her anxiety and depression were well
controlled by using the prescription medication Lexapro. [TR
783]. In September 2014, Thomas reported that she slept well
at night and that she was still taking prescription
medication Lexapro, but that she continued to have some
shoulder pain. [TR 773].
November 2014, Thomas had surgery on her left shoulder to
remove a cyst and for rotator cuff repair. [Tr 791-847].
Post-surgery, Thomas reported that her pain was controlled
and that her depression had improved. [TR 767]. Still, Thomas
reported some continued left hip pain. [Id.].
2015, Thomas was assessed by Dr. Robert Hoskins, M.D., and
Dr. Michele Amburgey, Ph.D., related to her disability claim.
[TR 869-76, 890-95]. Dr. Hoskins reported that Thomas had a
somewhat unsteady gait and had difficulty squatting, sitting,
and standing from the chair in the office. [TR 894].
Additionally, Dr. Hoskins noted that Thomas had a strong limp
after taking a few steps. [Id.]. As a result of his
examination, Dr. Hoskins stated that he “[could not]
think of a job that she could keep given the history.
[Id.]. Similarly, Dr. Amburgey's assessment
rated Thomas's ability to function as poor in several
areas, including understanding and remembering detailed
instructions, maintaining attention and concentration for
extended periods, and performing at a consistent pace, among
others. [TR 875].
Hearing Before ALJ
her claims were denied initially and were denied upon
reconsideration, Thomas pursued her claims at an
administrative hearing before ALJ Roger L. Reynolds on
September 28, 2015. [TR 383-411]. Thomas was represented by
an attorney at the administrative hearing. At the hearing,
Thomas testified that she had previously worked as a charge
nurse. [TR 387]. Thomas testified that she was unable to work
beginning in 2010 because she was experiencing a lot of pain
and was having problems with her memory. [TR 388].
Thomas testified that she underwent surgeries on her left
shoulder in November 2014 and July 2015. [TR 390-91]. Thomas
explained that the pain in her left shoulder had improved
since her surgeries and that, although she still does not
have much range of motion, she can raise her left ...