United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Brent Brennenstuhl United States Magistrate Judge
the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Debbie Moore
(“Plaintiff”) seeking judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Both the Plaintiff (DN 13) and Defendant (DN
16) have filed a Fact and Law Summary. For the reasons that
follow, the final decision of the Commissioner is
AFFIRMED, and judgment is
GRANTED for the Commissioner.
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 11). By Order
entered October 11, 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
protectively filed applications for Disability Insurance
Benefits and Supplemental Security Income Benefits on March
9, 2015 (Tr. 15, 244-47, 248-56). Plaintiff alleged that she
became disabled on August 31, 2014 as a result of anxiety and
depression (Tr. 15, 286). Administrative Law Judge Maribeth
McMahon (“ALJ”) conducted a video hearing from
Paducah, Kentucky on May 23, 2017 in (Tr. 15, 33-35).
Plaintiff and her counsel, Sara J. Martin, participated from
Madisonville, Kentucky (Id.). During the hearing
Kenneth Boaz testified as a vocational expert (Id.).
decision dated November 14, 2017 the ALJ evaluated this adult
disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential
evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr.
15-27). The ALJ noted that Plaintiff filed a prior
application for Supplemental Security Income Benefits on
January 12, 2012 (Tr. 15). The ALJ recognized that a previous
Administrative Law Judge found Plaintiff was not disabled in
a hearing decision dated May 23, 2013 (Tr. 15, 64-79). The
ALJ indicated that no further appeals were filed by Plaintiff
regarding that application (Id.).
to the applications filed on March 9, 2015, the ALJ found
Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social
Security Act through March 31, 2016 (Tr. 18). At the first
step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since August 31, 2014, the
alleged onset date (Id.). At the second step, the
ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following severe
impairments: hypertension, hyperlipidemia, insomnia, an
affective disorder, and an anxiety disorder (Id.).
The ALJ also concluded that Plaintiff's gastroesophageal
reflux disease and blurred vision were non-severe impairments
(Id.). 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 (Id.).
fourth step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the residual
functional capacity (RFC) to perform medium work as defined
in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c) except she is
limited to simple, one to three step tasks requiring only
occasional, task-focused interaction with non-confrontation
supervisors and coworkers; she needs to avoid contact with
the public; and she needs to avoid work that is fast-paced
and strictly quota-based (Tr. 20). The ALJ found that
Plaintiff has no past relevant work (Tr. 26).
proceeded to the fifth step where he considered
Plaintiff's RFC, age, education, and past work experience
as well as testimony from the vocational expert (Tr. 26-27).
The ALJ found that Plaintiff is able to perform a significant
number 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 August 31, 2014 through the
date of the decision (Tr. 27).
timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the
ALJ's decision (Tr. 242-43). The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 1-3).
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 The 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. §§