United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division
LINDA T. SANDIDGE PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Brent Brennenstuhl United States Magistrate Judge
the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Linda T. Sandidge
(“Plaintiff”) seeking judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Both the Plaintiff (DN 11) and Defendant (DN
16) 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.
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 9). By Order
entered December 21, 2018 (DN 10), 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 Disability Insurance Benefits on
August 31, 2015 (Tr. 11, 150-53). Plaintiff alleged that she
became disabled on March 1, 2015, as a result of lumbar
degenerative disc disease, lumbar spondylosis, lumbar
radiculopathy, fibromyalgia, hypertension, and anxiety (Tr.
11, 169). On November 7, 2017, Administrative Law Judge
Maribeth McMahon (“ALJ”) conducted a video
hearing Paducah, Kentucky (Tr. 11, 23-61). Plaintiff and her
counsel, Samuel Kyle LeMar, participated from Madisonville,
Kentucky (Id.). Christopher Brian Rymond, an
impartial vocational expert, also participated and testified
during the hearing (Tr. 23-61, 242-45).
decision dated March 14, 2018, the ALJ evaluated this adult
disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential
evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr.
11-18). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff last met the
insured status requirements of the Social Security Act on
September 30, 2017 (Tr. 13). At the first step, the ALJ found
Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since March 1, 2015 the alleged onset date (Id.). At
the second step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the
following severe impairments: osteoarthritis of the bilateral
hips, degenerative disc disease, and chronic myalgia
(Id.). The ALJ also concluded that Plaintiff's
blood pressure, anxiety disorder, and affective disorder are
non-severe impairments (Tr. 13-14). 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. 15).
fourth step, the ALJ found, through the date last insured,
Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to
perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b)
“except she can occasionally climb ramps/stairs, stoop,
kneel, crouch, and crawl but should never climb
ladders/ropes/scaffolds or work around vibrations,
unprotected heights, or dangerous machinery” (Tr. 15).
Relying on testimony from the vocational expert, the ALJ
found, through the date last insured, Plaintiff was able to
perform past relevant work as an administrative assistant
(Tr. 18). The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not under a
disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, at any
time from March 1, 2015, the alleged onset date, through
September 30, 2017, the date last insured (Id.).
timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the
ALJ's decision (Tr. 147-49). The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 1-3).
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)).
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 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
Supplemental Security Income). The term
“disability” is defined as an
[I]nability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by
reason of any medically determinable physical or mental
impairment which can be expected to result in death or which
has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period
of not less than twelve (12) months.
42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A) (Title II),
1382c(a)(3)(A) (Title XVI); 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1505(a), 416.905(a); Barnhart v. Walton, 535
U.S. 212, 214 (2002); Abbott v. Sullivan, 905 F.2d
918, 923 (6th Cir. 1990).
Commissioner has promulgated regulations setting forth a
five-step sequential evaluation process for evaluating a
disability claim. See “Evaluation of
disability in general, ” 20 C.F.R. §§