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Saylor v. Saul

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

July 30, 2019

JASON A. SAYLOR, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          CLARIA HORN BOOM, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Jason A. Saylor (“Saylor”) brought this action pursuant to 42 US.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3), and 5 U.S.C. § 706 to obtain judicial review of an administrative decision denying his claims for Supplemental Security Income Benefits. [R. 2, Compl.] The Parties filed cross Motions for Summary Judgment pursuant to the Court's Standing Scheduling Order. [R. 11; R. 14; R. 16] Because Saylor has exhausted his administrative remedies, his claims are ripe for review by this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). The Court, having reviewed the Motions, the briefs in support, and the entire record, will AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision because it is supported by substantial evidence and was decided by the proper legal standards, DENY Saylor's Motion for Summary Judgment, and GRANT the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On February 18, 2016, Saylor filed an application for Social Security Disability Benefits alleging disability beginning June 15, 2015 due to “breathing, right shoulder [pain], heart, back [pain] and lack of education.” [Administrative Record (“AR”) at 226, 254] Saylor's claim was denied on April 19, 2016. [AR at 153] The reconsideration of his claim was denied on June 29, 2016. [AR at 159] Saylor sought review of his claim and was heard before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), who found that Saylor was not disabled. [AR at 98-125, 50-59] The ALJ analyzed Saylor's claim using the five-step sequential process outlined in the regulations under the Social Security Act (the “Act”). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)-(e); see Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 529 (6th Cir. 1997).

         At step one, the ALJ determined that Saylor had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 15, 2015 (the alleged onset date). [AR at 55]

         At step two, the ALJ determined that Saylor had the following severe impairments: “degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, degenerative joint disease of the right acromioclavicular joint, status-post two arthroscopic decompressions of the right acromioclavicular joint, asthma, obesity, coronary artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and tinnitus.” Id. (citing 20 CFR §§ 404.1520(c)).

         At step three, the ALJ determined that Saylor did 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. Id. (citing 20 CFR §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, and 404.1526).

         At step four, the ALJ determined that Saylor had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(a) with the following limitations: frequent pushing and pulling with his right upper extremity; occasional climbing of ramps and stairs; no climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; frequent stooping; no reaching overhead with his right upper extremity; frequent forward reaching at shoulder level; occasional pushing and pulling with his lower left extremity; no kneeling, couching, or crawling; no exposure to pulmonary irritants; avoiding exposure to vibration and hazards; and avoiding temperature extremes. [AR at 56-58]

         At step five, the ALJ determined that Saylor was not able to perform past relevant work but that, in line with his age, education, work experience, and RFC, jobs that he can perform exist in significant numbers in the national economy. [AR at 58]

         Saylor appealed the ALJ's decision before the Appeals Council on January 5, 2018. [AR at 221-225] The Appeals Council denied Saylor's Request for Review of the ALJ's initial decision. [AR at 1-7] Thereafter, Saylor filed this action for court review of the ALJ's decision. [R. 2, Compl.]

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Court must uphold the Commissioner's decision “absent a determination that the Commissioner has failed to apply the correct legal standards or has made findings of fact unsupported by substantial evidence in the record.” Warner v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 735 F.3d 387, 390 (6th Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The Court may decide only whether the Commissioner's decision “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). Substantial evidence is defined as “more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance.” Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 285-86 (6th Cir. 1994). “The substantial evidence standard is met if a reasonable mind might accept the relevant evidence as adequate to support a conclusion.” Longworth v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005). “[E]ven if there is substantial evidence in the record that would have supported an opposite conclusion, so long as substantial evidence supports the conclusion reached by the ALJ, ” the Court must uphold the Commissioner's decision. Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 475 (6th Cir. 2003) (quoting Key v. Callahan, 109 F.3d 270, 273 (6th Cir. 1997)). The Court cannot review the case de novo, resolve conflicts of evidence, or decide questions of credibility. Nelson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 195 Fed. App'x. 462, 468 (6th Cir. 2006); Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Saylor argues that the Court should overturn the ALJ's decision for two reasons. First, Saylor argues that the ALJ did not have substantial evidence for her decision because she failed to 1) properly address the entirety of the medical evidence; 2) give proper credibility to claimant and; 3) give proper credibility to claimant's treating physician. [R. 14-1, Pl. Mem. in Supp., at ¶ 2, 8-12] Second, Saylor argues that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate his pain. [R. 14-1, Pl. Mem. in Supp., at ¶ 2, 12-13] Some of Saylor's arguments include only conclusory statements without presenting any supporting evidence. Though the Court is not required formulate an argument when the Claimant fails to do so, the Court will consider the evidence and address each of Saylor's arguments ...


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