United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, Pikeville
OPINION AND ORDER
E. Wier, United States District Judge.
McGuire appeals the Commissioner's denial of her
application for disability benefits. The parties filed dueling
summary judgment motions. The Court GRANTS
the Commissioner's motion (DE #10) and
DENIES McGuire's motion (DE #8) because
substantial evidence supports the findings resulting in the
administrative decision, and the decision rests on proper
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
is currently 62 years old. See, e.g., R. at 65. She
alleges disability beginning on May 5, 2014. See,
e.g., R. at 127. McGuire applied for benefits on October
22, 2014. R. at 217-27. The SSA denied her claims initially
on January 5, 2015, see R. at 127-30, and upon
reconsideration on July 14, 2015. See R. at 136-50.
McGuire then filed a written request for a hearing on
September 9, 2015. R. at 151-52. Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ) Deborah Foresman held a video hearing on April 11,
2017. R. at 39-64. At the hearing, attorney Randy Clark
represented McGuire. R. at 42. Claimant and impartial
vocational expert (VE) Andrew Beale testified. R. at 45-63.
The ALJ subsequently denied McGuire's claims on September
25, 2017. R. at 17-32. The Appeals Council denied review, and
thus upheld the ALJ's decision, on July 5, 2018. R. at
made several particular findings in the required sequence.
She determined that McGuire did not engage in substantial
gainful activity from May 5, 2014, through the date of
decision. R. at 22. The ALJ next determined that McGuire had
severe impairments. R. at 23. However, ALJ Foresman then
found that McGuire did “not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that [met] or medically equal[ed]
the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.” R. at 24-25. The ALJ
further made a detailed residual functional capacity (RFC)
finding. R. at 25-31. Considering the RFC, Judge Foresman
found McGuire “capable of performing past relevant work
as a patient transporter” and, also, able to perform
two separate representative jobs in the national economy
(order puller and counter supply worker). See R. at
31. Based on these considerations, the ALJ ruled that McGuire
was not under a disability from May 5, 2014, through the date
of decision. See R. at 21, 32. Unsatisfied with the
result of the SSA's administrative process, McGuire
turned to federal court for review.
Standard of Review
Court has carefully read the ALJ's lengthy decision, the
transcript of the administrative hearing, and the apt parts
of the entire (voluminous-1, 900 page) administrative
record. The Court has scrutinized the record, while primarily
focusing on the portions to which the parties specifically
cite. See DE #7 (General Order 13-7), at ¶ 3(c)
(“The parties shall provide the Court with specific
page citations to the administrative record to support their
arguments. The Court will not undertake an open-ended review
of the entirety of the administrative record to find support
for the parties' arguments.”).
review of the ALJ's decision to deny disability benefits
is a limited and deferential inquiry into whether substantial
evidence supports the denial's factual decisions and
whether the ALJ properly applied relevant legal standards.
Blakley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399,
405 (6th Cir. 2009); Jordan v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 548 F.3d 417, 422 (6th Cir. 2008); Brainard v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 889 F.2d 679,
681 (6th Cir. 1989) (citing Richardson v. Perales,
91 S.Ct. 1420, 1427 (1971)); see also 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) (providing and defining judicial review for
Social Security claims) (“The findings of the
Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported
by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive[.]”).
evidence means “more than a scintilla of evidence, but
less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health &
Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994); see
also Warner v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 375 F.3d 387,
390 (6th Cir. 2004). The Court does not try the case de
novo, resolve conflicts in the evidence, or assess
questions of credibility. Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d
506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007). Similarly, the Court does not
reverse findings of the Acting Commissioner or the ALJ merely
because the record contains evidence-even substantial
evidence-to support a different conclusion. Warner,
375 F.3d at 390. Rather, the Court must affirm the ALJ's
decision if substantial evidence supports it, even if the
Court might have decided the case differently if in the
ALJ's shoes. See Longworth v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005); Her v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 203 F.3d 388, 389-90 (6th Cir.
ALJ, when determining disability, conducts a five-step
analysis. See Preslar v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994); 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4). At Step 1, the ALJ considers whether
the claimant is performing substantial gainful activity.
See Preslar, 14 F.3d at 1110. At Step 2, the ALJ
determines whether one or more of the claimant's
impairments are severe. Id. At Step 3, the ALJ
analyzes whether the claimant's impairments, alone or in
combination, meet or equal an entry in the Listing of
Impairments. Id. At Step 4, the ALJ determines RFC
and whether the claimant can perform past relevant work.
Id. Finally, at Step 5, when the burden shifts to
the Acting Commissioner, if the claimant cannot perform past
relevant work, the ALJ determines whether significant numbers
of other jobs exist in the national economy that the claimant
can perform, given the applicable RFC. See Preslar,
14 F.3d at 1110; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). If the ALJ
determines at any step that the claimant is not disabled, the
analysis ends at that step. Mowery v. Heckler, 771
F.2d 966, 969 (6th Cir. 1985); 20 C.F.R. §
reviewing the ALJ's application of the legal standards,
the Court gives deference to her interpretation of the law
and reviews the decision for reasonableness and consistency
with governing statutes. Whiteside v. Sec'y of Health
& Human Servs., 834 F.2d 1289, 1292 (6th Cir. 1987).
In a Social Security benefits case, the agency's
construction of the statute should be followed “unless
there are compelling indications that it is wrong.”
Merz v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 969
F.2d 201, 203 (6th Cir. 1992) (quoting Whiteside,
834 F.2d at 1292).
The ALJ did not reversibly err.
makes two overarching arguments: that substantial evidence
does not support the ALJ's decision, and that the ALJ
erred by failing to apply the Grid Rules. See ...