United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
Gregory F.Van Tatenhove, United States District Judge
Brian Keith Rose seeks judicial review of an administrative
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, which denied
Rose's claim for supplemental security income and
disability insurance benefits. Mr. Rose 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 Mr. Rose's motion for summary judgment
but will GRANT judgment in favor of the Commissioner.
Brian Keith Rose filed an application for disability
insurance benefits in February 2015 and for supplemental
security income in April 2015. [Tr. 173]. The record shows
that Mr. Rose suffers from Hepatitis B with vasculitis;
neuropathy; kidney disease; and degenerative disc disease.
[Tr. 175]. The severity of Plaintiff's kidney-related
symptoms varies, and he was hospitalized at two different
times in 2015-once for nearly a month-when said symptoms
became acute. [Tr. 177-78]. Moreover, Mr. Rose alleges that
he suffers from pain and numbness in his feet, as well as
back pain caused by inflammation of the degenerative disc
disease and other symptoms; as a result, Mr. Rose alleges
that he is unable to stand or sit continuously for more than
10 minutes. [Tr. 177]. The disability and supplemental income
claims, stemming from the aforementioned ailments, were
denied initially on April 23, 2015, and upon reconsideration
on October 16, 2015. [Tr. 173]. Mr. Rose requested a hearing,
which was held before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Dennis
Hansen on January 27, 2017. Id. Following the
hearing, the ALJ issued a final decision denying both of
Rose's claims for benefits. [Tr. 180].
evaluate a claim for disability insurance benefit claims, 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 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 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.
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.; Jordon v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 548
F.3d 417, 423 (6th Cir. 2008).
Hansen's written decision proceeds sequentially through
the five steps. [Tr. 170]. As an initial matter, the ALJ
found that Mr. Rose met the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act through December 31, 2016.
Id. At the first step, ALJ Hansen found that Rose
had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March
15, 2014, the alleged onset date. Id. Since then,
Rose has been drawing food stamps and relying primarily on
contributions from his parents in order to pay his bills.
at the second step, ALJ Hansen found that Mr. Rose has the
following severe impairments: Hepatitis B with vasculitis,
neuropathy, kidney disease, and degenerative disc disease.
[Tr. 175]. The ALJ also considered the claimant's
additional impairments of tobacco abuse, opiate addiction,
and hypertension, but found that those ailments would not
“cause more than minimal impact on work functioning and
therefore under Social Security regulations they are not
severe impairments.” [Tr. 176]. With respect to
hypertension, ALJ Hansen's finding stemmed from testimony
and exhibits in the record showing that the claimant's
blood pressure has normalized through improved kidney
function and treatment with commonly prescribed medications.
Id. Further, although Mr. Rose had problems with
opiate consumption in the past, the ALJ found that currently
the claimant does not abuse or use opiates to an extent that
supports a finding of “disabled.” Id.
Lastly, the ALJ found there was no evidence that the
claimant's long-term tobacco use affects his capacity to
work. Id. As such, ALJ Hansen found that the
claimant's tobacco abuse, hypertension, and opiate
addiction “no more than minimally limit the performance
of basic work activity and, therefore, do not constitute
severe impairments.” Id. At step three, ALJ
Hansen found that Mr. Rose's impairments-even when
considered collectively-do not meet or equate to the severity
of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404 or
Part 416. Id.
proceeding to step four, ALJ Hansen considered the entire
record and determined that Mr. Rose possessed the RFC to
perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), with certain limitations
described as follows:
[Mr. Rose] can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds;
never be exposed to unprotected heights or dangerous moving
machinery; and never operate a motor vehicle at work. He can
occasionally climb ramps and stairs; can occasionally stoop,
kneel, crouch, and crawl; can occasionally operate foot
controls; and can occasionally be exposed to vibration,
extreme heat, and extreme cold.
Id. After explaining how he determined Rose's
RFC (see Tr. 176-79], ALJ Hansen found at step four
that, based on this RFC, Rose is unable to perform any of his
past relevant very heavy work as a house repairer. [Tr. 179].
at step five, the ALJ determined that, “Considering the
claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual
functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that the claimant can
perform. [Tr. 179]. Relying on the vocational expert's
testimony that Mr. Rose has the capacity to fulfill
“light unskilled occupations” (e.g. ticket taker,
rental clerk, office helper), ALJ Hansen found that Rose is
capable of ...