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Disney v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division

May 22, 2019

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner Of Social Security, Defendant.


          Gregory F. Van Tatenhove United States District Judge.

         Andy Dewayne Disney seeks judicial review of an administrative decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, which denied his claim for supplemental security income and disability insurance benefits. Mr. Disney brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), alleging by the ALJ considering the matter. The Court, having reviewed the record and for the reasons set forth herein, will DENY Mr. Disney's Motion for Summary Judgment and GRANT the Commissioner's.



         Plaintiff Andy Dewayne Disney initially filed an application for Title II Disability Insurance Benefits and Title XVI Supplemental Security Income on November 10, 2014, alleging disability beginning on November 15, 2010. [Transcript (hereinafter, “Tr.”) 11.] Administrative Law Judge Issacs denied this request on January 20, 2015, and again denied it upon reconsideration on March 10, 2015. Id. Mr. Disney filed a request for a hearing on April 7, 2015, which was held on April 4, 2017. Id. On July 6, 2017, the ALJ issued a partially favorable decision. Id. at 18. The Appeals Council denied Mr. Disney's request for review on February 14, 2018. Id. at 1. Mr. Disney was previously denied benefits by an ALJ on August 9, 2013.

         To evaluate a claim of disability for Title II disability insurance benefit 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 (claims for supplemental security income).[1] 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 metal 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.

         Fourth, 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. § 404.1520(f).

         Through 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).

         At the outset of this case, the ALJ determined that Mr. Disney met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2015. Tr. 14; see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.131. Then at Step One, the ALJ found Mr. Disney had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged disability onset date, November 15, 2010, through his date last insured. Tr. 14. At Step Two, the ALJ found Mr. Disney to suffer from the severe impairment of degenerative disk disease. Id. At Step Three, the ALJ determined his combination of impairments did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404 or Part 416. Id. Before moving on to Step Four, the ALJ considered the record and determined that Mr. Disney possessed the following residual functioning capacity:

[Mr. Disney] has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) with lifting/carrying 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; standing/walking no more 30 minutes at a time for 2 hours in an 8-hour day; sitting 30 minutes at a time for 6 hours in an 8hour day; no more than occasional stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling, and climbing ramps/stairs; no balancing on uneven surfaces; no overhead reaching bilaterally and use of an assistive device for walking.

Id. After explaining the RFC, the ALJ found at Step Four that, based on his RFC, age, education, and work experience, Mr. Disney was not capable of performing past relevant work as a scoop operator or foreman since August 10, 2013, but was capable of performing other jobs existing in the national economy until his age category changed on April 3, 2017. Id. at 16-18. Accordingly, the ALJ found at Step Five that Mr. Disney was not disabled for Title II Disability Insurance Benefits because his date last insured expired on December 31, 2015, but he was found disabled on April 3, 2017 for Title XVI Supplemental Security Benefits because his age status changed to an individual closely approaching advanced age on that date. Id. at 18.


         The 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. 1984)).

         To 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 ...

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