United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
GREGORY F. VAN TATENHOVE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Susan Alexander seeks judicial review of an administrative
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, which denied
Alexander's claim for supplemental social security.
[Transcript (hereinafter, “Tr.”) 24.] Alexander
brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
alleging various errors on the part of the Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) considering the matter. The Court,
having reviewed the record and for the reasons set forth
herein, will DENY Ms. Alexander's Motion for Summary
Judgment [R. 12] and will GRANT the Commissioner's [R.
Alexander filed an application for supplemental social
security in January 2015, alleging disability beginning on
January 9, 2015. [Tr. 12.] Alexander's motion for summary
judgment explains she suffers from various neck and back
conditions, obesity, diverticulitis, fibromyalgia,
epicondylitis, migraine headaches, anxiety, and depression.
[Tr. 15.] Alexander's claims for supplemental social
security were initially denied on May 15, 2015 and upon
reconsideration on August 24, 2015 [Tr. 12.] Subsequently, a
hearing was conducted upon Alexander's request.
[Id.] Following the hearing, ALJ Roger L. Reynolds
issued a final decision denying Alexander's claims. [Tr.
24.] Alexander, who was 47 years old at the time of the
alleged disability onset, has a GED and some technical
college classes, and past relevant work as a medical records
clerk and front office assistant. [R. 12-1 at 3.] The
vocational expert who participated in the hearing testified
that the demands of positions such as inspector or tester,
assembly/bench work, and machine tender do not exceed
Alexander's residual functional capacity. [Tr. 23.]
Finding the vocational expert's testimony sufficiently
consistent with other relevant evidence and the Dictionary of
Occupational Titles (there was a slight discrepancy in the
expert's use of a “sit stand option” that is
not in the DOT, but was otherwise consistent), the ALJ
determined Alexander is capable of “making a successful
adjustment to other work that existed in significant numbers
in the national economy.” [Id.]
evaluating a claim of disability, an ALJ conducts a five-step
analysis. See 20 C.F.R. 404.1520 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." 20 C.F.R. 404.1520(d). Before
moving to the fourth step, the ALJ must use all the relevant
evidence in the record to determine the claimant's
residual functional capacity ("RFC"), which
assesses 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. Fourth, the ALJ must determine whether the clamant
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).
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.; Jordon v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 548
F.3d 417, 423 (6th Cir. 2008).
case, at Step 1, the ALJ determined that Alexander did not
engage in substantial gainful activity from the date of her
alleged onset disability through her date last insured. [Tr.
15.] At Step 2, the ALJ found Alexander to suffer from the
severe impairments of chronic neck and upper extremity pain
and weakness secondary to degenerative disc disease of the
cervical spine, status post C5/6 discectomy and fusion,
obesity, diverticulitis, degenerative disc disease of the
lumbar spine, fibromyalgia, history of right epicondylitis,
migraine headaches, anxiety, and depression. [Id.]
At Step 3, the ALJ found Alexander's combination of
impairments did not meet or medically equal one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
[Tr. 18.] Before moving on to Step 4, the ALJ considered the
entire record and determined Alexander possessed the residual
functional capacity to perform less than the full range of
light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), with
certain limitations described as follows:
[T]he claimant requires a sit stand option with no prolonged
standing or walking in excess of 30 minutes without
interruption; no sitting in excess of 15 minutes to one hour
without interruption; frequent use of the hands for pinching,
feeling, fingering, grasping, or pushing/pulling; no climbing
of ropes, ladders, or scaffolds; occasional climbing of
stairs or ramps, occasional balancing, stooping, kneeling,
crouching, or crawling; no work with hands over the head; no
operation of foot pedal controls; should perform work with
only occasional need to turn the head; no exposure to
concentrated vibration or industrial hazards; requires entry
level work with simple repetitive procedures; can tolerate
only occasional changes in work routines; and should work in
an object oriented environment with only occasional and
casual contact with coworkers, supervisors or the general
[Tr. 20.] After explaining in detail how he determined
Alexander's RFC [Tr. 20-22], the ALJ found at Step 4
that, based on this RFC, Alexander is capable of performing
jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national
economy. [Tr. 22.] Accordingly, the ALJ concluded Alexander
was not disabled under §§ 216(i) and 223(d)of the
Social Security Act. [Id.] The Appeals Council
declined to review the ALJ's decision on January 9, 2018
[Tr. 1-4], and Alexander now seeks judicial review in this
Court's review is 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]
decisionmakers can go either way, without interference by the
courts.” Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545
(6th Cir. 1986) (en banc) (quoting Baker v.
Heckler, 730 F.2d 1147, 1150 (8th Cir. 1984)).
determining the existence of substantial evidence, 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) (citation omitted); 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 ...