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 Plaintiff Bruce Williams
seeking judicial review of the final decision of the
Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Williams
submitted a motion for disability benefits at ¶ 21. Both
Williams (DN 22) and the Commissioner (DN 25) subsequently
filed Fact and Law Summaries. For the reasons that follow,
the undersigned orders that judgment be granted in favor of
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 16). By Order
entered October 12, 2018 (DN 17), 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 an application for a period of disability and
Disability Insurance Benefits on September 11, 2014 (Tr.
179-182). Williams alleged that he became disabled on March
15, 2012 as a result of anxiety, right knee injury, left
wrist injury, back pain, Van Willebrand's Disease, severe
emotional distress, post traumatic stress from third degree
burns, stress from imprisonment and being a registered sex
offender, and depression (Tr. 198). Administrative Law Judge
Teresa A. Kroenecke (“ALJ”) conducted a hearing
via video conference on May 2, 2012. Williams appeared in
Bowling Green, Kentucky and the ALJ presided from Louisville,
Kentucky. Williams was not represented by counsel. Also
present and testifying was impartial vocational expert,
William R. Harpool.
decision dated September 19, 2017 the ALJ evaluated this
adult disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential
evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr.
8-32). At the first step, the ALJ found Williams did not
engage in substantial gainful activity since the alleged
onset date through his date last insured, March 31, 2017 (Tr.
14). At the second step, the ALJ determined that
William's degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine,
history of right knee meniscectomy, depressive disorder, and
anxiety disorder are “severe” impairments within
the meaning of the regulations (Tr. 14). Notably, at the
second step, the ALJ also determined that Williams'
history of hypertension and VonWillibrand disease are
“non-severe” impairments within the meaning of
the regulations (Tr. 14). At the third step, the ALJ
concluded that Williams does not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one
of the listed impairments in Appendix 1 (Tr. 14).
fourth step, the ALJ found Williams has the residual
functional capacity to perform less than a full range of
light work (Tr. 16-17). More specifically, the ALJ found that
Williams should be permitted the option to alternate between
sitting and standing and/or walking every 30 to 45 minutes
with the change in position taking no more than two to three
minutes and while remaining at the work station; he can never
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasionally climb ramps
and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; he
should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme heat and cold,
humidity, wetness, vibration and hazard. Williams can
understand, remember, carry out short, simple, routine
instructions and able to sustain attention and/or concentrate
for 2-hour periods at a time and for 8 hours in the workday
on short, simple, routine tasks. He can use judgment in
making work-related decisions consistent with short, simple,
and routine work but requires occupations with set routines
and procedures and few changes during workday consistent with
simple and routine tasks. He cannot perform fast paced
production work and can only occasionally interact with
coworkers and supervisors but with no tandem work activities
and no interaction with the general public (Tr. 16-17).
Relying on testimony from the vocational expert, the ALJ
found that Williams was unable to perform any of his past
relevant work through the date last insured (Tr. 24).
proceeded to the fifth step where he considered Williams
residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work
experience as well as testimony from the vocational expert
(Tr. 25). The ALJ found that Williams is capable of
performing a significant number of jobs that exist in the
national economy (Tr. 25). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that
Williams has not been under a “disability, ” as
defined in the Social Security Act, from March 15, 2012
through the date of last insured (Tr. 26). Plaintiff timely
filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the
ALJ's decision (Tr. 292-97). The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision
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 Amay 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.
previously mentioned, the Appeals Council denied
William's request for review of the ALJ's decision
(Tr. 1-6). 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