United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
Gregory F. Van Tatenhove United States District Judge
Abbot seeks judicial review of an administrative decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security, which denied
Abbott's claim for supplemental security income and
disability insurance benefits. Abbott 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 Abbott's Motion for
Summary Judgment and GRANT the
Rodney Abbott filed an application for Title II disability
insurance benefits and Title XVI supplemental social security
in June 2015, alleging disability beginning April 1, 2015 in
both claims. [Transcript (hereinafter, “Tr.”)
214-24, 249.] Abbott's claims were denied initially in
October 2015 and upon reconsideration in December 2015. [Tr.
15.] At Abbott's request, a hearing was held on July 19,
2017, after which the Administrative Law Judge denied
Abbott's claims. [Tr. 30-78.] The Appeals Council
declined to review, making the ALJ's December 26, 2017
decision the final agency decision for purposes of judicial
evaluate a claim of disability for both Title II disability
insurance benefit claims and Title XVI supplemental security
income 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 (supplemental security income claims). 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 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 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 Abbott met the
insured status requirements of the Social Security Act
through December 30, 2016. [Tr. 18]; see also 20
C.F.R. § 404.131. Then at step one, the ALJ found Abbott
had not engaged ins substantial gainful activity since April
1, 2015, the alleged disability onset date. [Tr. 18.] At step
two, the ALJ found Abbott suffered from the following severe
impairments: arthritis; obesity; degeneration of the cervical
and lumbar spine; status post motor vehicle collision in
February 2015; degeneration of the hands and feet with
pre-ganglion cyst; hypothyroidism; anemia; hypertension;
history of knee arthroscopy; history of pituitary adenoma and
colon cancer with diverticulitis; migraines; depression; and
anxiety. Id. At step three, the ALJ determined
Abbott's combination of impairments did not meet or
medically equal the severity of one of the listed impairments
in 20 C.F.R. Part 404 or 416. [Tr. 18-19.] Before advancing
to step four, the ALJ considered the record and determined
that Abbott possessed the following residual functioning
[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b) except the claimant can lift 20 pounds
occasionally, 10 pounds frequently; stand or walk for 6 hours
in an 8hour workday, for up to 30 minutes at a time; sit for
6 hours in an 8-hour workday, for up to 30 minutes at a time;
perform unlimited pushing or pulling up to the exertional
limitations; unlimited balance; occasional reaching overhead
bilaterally; frequent handling and fingering bilaterally; no
more than occasional stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling
or climbing ramps or stairs, but no climbing ladders, ropes,
or scaffolds; no work in areas of concentrated cold; no work
in areas of concentrated humidity; no work in areas of
concentrated, full body vibration; no work around dangerous,
moving machinery or unprotected heights; no more than simple,
routine work; can persist in attention, concentration and
pace for two-hour intervals necessary to complete simple
tasks; no more than occasional interaction with co-workers or
supervisors, but more than occasional contact with the
general public; no more than occasional changes in workplace
[Tr. 20.] After explaining Abbott's RFC, the ALJ found at
step four that, based on his RFC, his age, education, and
work experience there are jobs in the national economy that
Abbott can perform. Accordingly, the ALJ found at step five
that Abbott is not disabled pursuant to 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1569(a) and 416.969(a).
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 ...