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Howard v. Berryhill

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

June 17, 2019

KEVIN L. HOWARD, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Defendant.

          ORDER AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER'S DECISION

          CLARIA HORN BOOM, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment. [R. 13; R. 15]. The Plaintiff, Kevin Howard, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to obtain judicial review of an administrative decision denying his claim for disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI). The Court, having reviewed the record, will affirm the Commissioner's decision.

         BACKGROUND

         An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied Howard's claim [Administrative Record (“AR”) at 9], and the Appeals Council denied his request for review. [AR at 1] Howard now petitions this Court to review the decision of the Commissioner. This Court's review of the Commissioner's decision is limited to determining whether it “is supported by substantial evidence and was made pursuant to proper legal standards.” Rabbers v. Comm'r Soc. Sec., 582 F.3d 647, 651 (6th Cir. 2009). Although Howard has applied for and been denied benefits before, the ALJ in the present case has correctly given Howard's current application a fresh review, as it is for a new period of time and the record contains new and material evidence. See Earley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 893 F.3d 929, 933 (6th Cir. 2018).

         In denying Howard's claim, the ALJ engaged in the five-step sequential process set forth in the regulations under the Social Security Act (the “Act”). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)-(e). See, e.g., Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 529 (6th Cir. 1997).

         At step one, the ALJ determined that Howard had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 26, 2015, the alleged onset date as amended. [AR at 15]

         At step two, the ALJ determined that Howard suffered from the severe impairments of colitis, valvular heart disease status post remote aortic valve replacement with a mechanical valve, major depressive disorder, and anxiety. Id. Conversely, the ALJ classified Howard's complaints of hypertensive disorder, chronic back pain, hernia, insomnia, and Hepatitis B and C as non-severe impairments. Id. at 15-16.

         At step three, the ALJ found that Howard does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. [AR at 16]

         Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ determined that Howard has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work that does not require climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; crawling; commercial driving; exposure to vibration and hazards, such as moving mechanical parts and protected heights; more than occasional climbing ramps and stairs, stooping, kneeling, or crouching; or concentrated exposure to temperature extremes. Id. at 18. The ALJ determined that mentally, Howard can perform simple, routine, repetitive work that requires occasional work-related decision-making; adapt to occasional workplace changes that are gradually introduced; occasionally interact with the public; and frequently interact with supervisors and coworkers. Id.

         At step four, the ALJ determined that Howard has past relevant work as a furniture mover, fast food cook, taxi driver, and assistant manager, but he is unable to perform his past relevant work as actually or generally performed due to his current RFC. Id. at 21-22.

         At step five, the ALJ determined that, considering the RFC described above and Howard's age and work experience, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Howard can perform and, thus, he is not disabled. Id. at 22.

         ANALYSIS

         Howard raises two objections to the ALJ's decision. He first argues that the ALJ's determination that he is not disabled is not supported by substantial evidence. [R. 13-1 at p. 14] Second, Howard contends that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate his subjective complaints of pain. Id. at 18. The Court agrees with the ALJ's determinations on both of these issues.

         I. The ALJ's Determination is Supported by ...


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