United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division London
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
GREGORY F. VAN TATENHOVE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Holt Finley seeks judicial review of an administrative
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, which denied
his claim for disability insurance benefits. Mr. Finley
brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
alleging various errors on the part of the ALJ considering
the matter. The Court, having reviewed the record and for the
reasons set forth herein, will DENY Mr.
Finley's Motion for Summary Judgment and
GRANT the Commissioner's.
Timothy Holt Finley initially filed an application for Title
II disability insurance benefits on March 22, 2016, alleging
disability beginning December 15, 2012. [Transcript
(hereinafter, “Tr.”) 10.] That claim was denied
first on June 15, 2016, and denied again upon reconsideration
on September 16, 2016. Id. At a hearing on September
6, 2017, Mr. Finley appeared and testified. Id.
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Joyce Francis denied this
request on December 20, 2017. Id. at 7. The Appeals
Council denied Mr. Finley's request for review, making
the December 20 ALJ decision final. Id. at 1; 20
C.F.R. § 422.210(a).
evaluate a claim of disability for Title II disability
insurance benefit claims, an ALJ conducts a five-step
analysis. Compare 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520
(disability insurance benefit claim) with 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920 (claims for supplemental security
income). First, if a claimant is performing a
substantial gainful activity, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(b). Second, if a claimant does not have any
impairment or combination of impairments which significantly
limit his physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities, he does not have a severe impairment and is not
“disabled” as defined by the regulations. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). Third, if a claimant's
impairments meet or equal one of the impairments listed in 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, he is
“disabled.” C.F.R. § 404.1530(d). Before
moving on to the fourth step, the ALJ must use all of the
relevant evidence in the record to determine the
claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC), which
assess an individual's ability to perform certain
physical and metal work activities on a sustained basis
despite any impairment experienced by the individual.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e); 20 C.F.R. §
the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has the RFC to
perform the requirements of his past relevant work, and if a
claimant's impairments do not prevent him from doing past
relevant work, he is not “disabled.” 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(e). Fifth, if a claimant's impairments
(considering his RFC, age, education, and past work) prevent
him from doing other work that exists in the national
economy, then he is “disabled.” 20 C.F.R. §
step four of the analysis, “the claimant bears the
burden of proving the existence and severity of limitations
caused by her impairments and the fact that she is precluded
from performing her past relevant work.” Jones v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir.
2003). At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to
identify a significant number of jobs that accommodate the
claimant's profile, but the claimant retains the ultimate
burden of proving his lack of residual functional capacity.
Id.; Jordan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 548
F.3d 417, 423 (6th Cir. 2008).
one, the ALJ found Mr. Finley had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since the alleged onset date, December 15,
2012. Tr. at 13. At step two, the ALJ found Mr. Finley to
suffer from the following severe impairments: degenerative
disc and facet joint disease of the lumbar and cervical
spine, peripheral neuropathy, and obesity. Id. At
step three, the ALJ determined his combination of impairments
did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments
in C.F.R. Part 404 or Part 416. Id. at 15. Before
moving on to step four, the ALJ considered the record and
determined that Mr. Finley possessed the following residual
functioning capacity (RFC):
After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that [Mr. Finley] has the residual
functional capacity to perform a reduced range of light work
as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b). The claimant can frequently
climb ramps and stairs; can frequently stoop, kneel, crouch,
and crawl; can occasionally climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds; can occasionally be exposed to extreme cold and
vibration; and can occasionally be exposed to unprotected
heights or dangerous moving machinery.
Id. at 16. After explaining the RFC, the ALJ found
at step four that Mr. Finley was capable of performing past
relevant work as a radio station operator, as well as other
jobs existing in the national economy. Id. at 19-21.
Accordingly, the ALJ determined at step five that Mr. Finley
was not disabled since December 15, 2012. Id. at 21.
Mr. Finley filed this action for review on October 27, 2018.
Court's review is generally limited to whether there is
substantial evidence in the record to support the ALJ's
decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Wright v.
Massanari, 321 F.3d 611, 614 (6th Cir. 2003);
Shelman v. Heckler, 821 F.2d 316, 319-20 (6th Cir.
1987). “Substantial evidence” is “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) (citing Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). The substantial evidence standard
“presupposes that there is a zone of choice within
which [administrative] decision makers can go either way,
without interference by the courts.” Mullen v.
Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986) (quoting
Baker v. Heckler, 730 F.2d 1147, 1150 (8th Cir.
determine whether substantial evidence exists, courts must
examine the record as a whole. Cutlip, 25 F.3d at
286 (citing Kirk v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 667 F.2d 524, 535 (6th Cir. 1981), cert.
denied, 461 U.S. 957 (1983)). However, a reviewing court
may not conduct a de novo review, resolve conflicts
in the evidence, or make credibility determinations.
Ulman v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 693 F.3d 709, 713
(6th Cir. 2012); see also Bradley v. Sec'y of Health
& Human Servs., 862 F.2d 1224, 1228 (6th Cir. 1988).
Rather, if the Commissioner's decision is supported by
substantial evidence, it must be affirmed even if the
reviewing court would decide the matter differently, and even
if substantial evidence also ...