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 James Eugene Walker
(“Plaintiff”) seeking judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Both the Plaintiff (DN 14) and Defendant (DN
15) 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 11). By Order
entered April 15, 2019, 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.
December 3, 2015, Plaintiff protectively filed an application
for Disability Insurance Benefits (Tr. 15, 156-59). Plaintiff
alleged that he became disabled on August 23, 2013 because of
right knee pain, back pain, high cholesterol, irritable bowel
syndrome, and acid reflux (Tr. 15, 178). Administrative Law
Judge Maribeth McMahon (“ALJ”) conducted a video
hearing from Paducah Kentucky (Tr. 15, 27-29). Plaintiff and
his counsel, Steven Wilson, participated from Owensboro,
Kentucky (Id.). Kenneth Boaz, an impartial
vocational expert, also testified during the hearing
decision dated June 20, 2018, the ALJ evaluated this adult
disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential
evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr.
15-22). At the first step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged
onset date of August 23, 2013, through the date Plaintiff
last met the insured status requirements of the Social
Security Act on December 31, 2015 (Tr. 17). At the second
step, the ALJ determined Plaintiff's spine disorder and
bilateral knee disorder are severe impairments
(Id.). The ALJ also determined that Plaintiff's
irritable bowel syndrome, high cholesterol, acid reflex, and
rheumatoid arthritis are nonsevere impairments
(Id.). 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. 18). The ALJ indicated that
she had consulted appropriate listings in this case,
including listings 1.02 and 1.04, but concluded the medical
evidence of record failed to conclusively demonstrate a
listing level of severity with respect to any listed
impairment on a sustained basis (Id.).
fourth step, the ALJ found from August 23, 2013 through
December 31, 2015 Plaintiff had the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform a range of light work (Tr. 18).
Specifically, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff could lift
and carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds
frequently; he could push and pull only frequently with the
lower extremities bilaterally; he could sit, stand, and walk
each for 30 minutes at a time for a total of six hours in an
eight-hour workday, and change positions without leaving the
workstation or being off task; he could never climb ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds; he could frequently climb ramps and
stairs; he could occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and
crawl; and he should avoid concentrated exposure to
unprotected heights, dangerous machinery, and vibrations
(Id.). Relying on testimony from the vocational
expert, the ALJ found through the date last insured,
Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work (Tr.
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. 20-21).
The ALJ found through the date last insured, there were jobs
that existed in significant numbers in the national economy
that Plaintiff could have performed (Id.).
Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not under a
disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, at any
time from the alleged onset date of August 23, 2013, through
the date last insured of December 31, 2015 (Tr. 21).
timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the
ALJ's decision (Tr. 150-53). 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 ...