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 Vickie Lynn Daugherty
(“Plaintiff”) seeking judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Both the Plaintiff (DN 12) and Defendant (DN
13) 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 10). By Order
entered March 5, 2019 (DN 11), 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.
January 12, 2016, Plaintiff protectively filed an application
for Disability Insurance Benefits (Tr. 21, 211-17). Plaintiff
alleged that she became disabled on May 1, 2011, as a result
of thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), visual
impairment, and high blood pressure (Tr. 21, 232). On January
24, 2018, Administrative Law Judge Maribeth McMahon
(“ALJ”) conducted a video hearing from Paducah,
Kentucky (Tr. 21, 33-82). Plaintiff and her attorney, Steven
Wilson, participated from Owensboro, Kentucky (Id.).
Kenneth Boaz, an impartial vocational expert, also testified
during the hearing (Id.).
decision dated June 11, 2018, the ALJ evaluated this adult
disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential
evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr.
21-28). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff last met the
insured status requirements of the Social Security Act on
December 31, 2015 (Tr. 23). At the first step, the ALJ found
Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since May 1, 2011, through her date last insured
(Id.). At the second step, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: blurred
vision; history of TTP; and history of migraine headaches
(Id.). The ALJ also found that Plaintiff's high
blood pressure, back problems, and anxiety are non-severe
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. 23). The ALJ indicated that she specifically considered
Listings 1.00, 2.00, 4.00, 11.00, 12.00, and 14.00 and
concluded the medical evidence failed to demonstrate a
listing level of severity with respect to any listed
impairment on a sustained basis (Id.).
fourth step, the ALJ found through the date last insured,
Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to
perform medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(c)
subject to the following: no exposure to unprotected heights,
dangerous machinery, or vibration; no balancing; no driving;
she would have been able to read only normal print with
glasses; and she did not have the depth perception or the
required peripheral vision to be able to judge distance (Tr.
24). Relying on testimony from the vocational expert, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant
work through the date last insured (Tr. 26).
proceeded to the fifth step where he considered
Plaintiff's RFC, age, education, and past work experience
as well as testimony from the vocational expert (Tr. 27-28).
The ALJ found through the date last insured Plaintiff could
have performed a significant number of jobs that exist in the
national economy (Id.). Therefore, the ALJ concluded
that Plaintiff was not been under a “disability,
” as defined in the Social Security Act, at any time
from her alleged onset date of May 1, 2011, through her date
last insured of December 31, 2015 (Tr. 28).
timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the
ALJ's decision (Tr. 208-10). 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
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. §§
404.1520, 416.920. In summary, the evaluation proceeds as
1) Is the claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity?
2) Does the claimant have a medically determinable impairment
or combination of impairments that satisfies the duration
requirement and significantly limits his or her ...