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Newton v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

May 24, 2019

PARRISH L. NEWTON PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          H. Brent Brennenstuhl, United States Magistrate Judge.

         BACKGROUND

         Before the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Parrish L. Newton seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both Newton (DN 16) and Defendant (DN 17) 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.

         Pursuant 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 10). By Order entered August 31, 2018 (DN 11), the parties were notified that oral arguments would not be held unless a written request therefor was filed and granted. No. such request was filed.

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits on August 14, 2014 (Tr. 286-310). Plaintiff alleged that she became disabled on November 23, 2010 as a result of high blood pressure, depression, and back problems (Tr. 329). Administrative Law Judge John R. Price (“ALJ”) conducted a hearing on April 10, 2017 via video conference. Newton appeared in Bowling Green, KY and the ALJ presided from Louisville, KY. Newton was present and represented by Charles Burchett. Also present and testifying was Tina Stambaugh, an impartial vocational expert.

         In a decision dated June 7, 2017, the ALJ evaluated this adult disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr. 15-31). At the first step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 26, 2013, the alleged onset date (Tr. 17). At the second step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's borderline intellectual functioning, depression, degenerative disc disease with herniation status/post discectomy, degenerative joint disease knees and ankles, carpel tunnel/de Quervain's status/post surgeries of left wrist with tendonitis vs. arthritis, injury to right elbow, and obesity status/post lap band are “severe” impairments within the meaning of the regulations (Tr. 17). Notably, at the second step, the ALJ also determined that Plaintiff's history of UTI's, gallstones, and the removal of her gallbladder are “non-severe” impairments within the meaning of the regulations (Tr. 18). 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 (Tr. 18).

         At the fourth step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform less than a full range of sedentary work (Tr. 21). More specifically, the ALJ found that Plaintiff requires 30 minute sit stand intervals taking a minute or two to change position; no ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; only occasional ramps and stairs; occasional kneeling, stooping, crouching, and crawling; she is capable of simple routine work where there are no fast-paced production-rate demands; occasional (superficial) interaction with coworkers and supervisors and avoiding the general public (Tr. 21). Relying on testimony from the vocational expert, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable to perform any of her past relevant work (Tr. 29).

         The ALJ proceeded to the fifth step where he considered Plaintiff's residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience as well as testimony from the vocational expert (Tr. 29). The ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of performing a significant number of jobs that exist in the national economy (Tr. 29). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a “disability, ” as defined in the Social Security Act, from February 26, 2013 through the date of the decision (Tr. 30).

         Plaintiff timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision (Tr. 282-83). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-3).

         CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

         Standard 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)).

         As 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 ...


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