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McQueen v. Saul

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

October 1, 2019

SETH MICHAEL MCQUEEN, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Karen K. Caldwell, Judge

         This matter is before the Court on cross motions for summary judgment. (DE 13; DE 21.) Plaintiff, Seth Michael McQueen, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of an administrative decision to deny him supplemental security income benefits. (DE 2 at 1.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income benefits on November 20, 2015, alleging disability beginning May 19, 2015. (AR at 38.) After the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) disallowed his application for benefits - initially on March 10, 2016, and then again after reconsideration on August 4, 2016 - Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (AR at 38.) The hearing was held on December 15, 2017, and ALJ Brandie Hall denied his claim on March 26, 2018. (AR at 35-48.)

         In denying Plaintiff's claim, the ALJ engaged in the five-step sequential process set forth in the regulations under the Social Security Act (“Act”). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)-(e). See, e.g., Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 529 (6th Cir. 1997).

         At step one, the ALJ determined that “[t]he claimant had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 20, 2015, the application date.” (AR at 40.)

         At step two, the ALJ determined that the claimant has the following five severe impairments: “right mid shaft tibula fracture, non-displaced with a resultant nonunion; blindness in left eye; obesity; mood disorder; and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).” (AR at 41.)

         At step three, the ALJ determined that “[t]he claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.” (AR at 41.)

         Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ determined “that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform less than a full range of sedentary works as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(a).” (AR at 43.) The ALJ determined that “[t]he claimant cannot perform jobs that require pushing, pulling, or operating foot controls with right lower extremity;” that he “cannot be exposed to workplace hazards… and cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds due to issues of depth perception;” that he “could only tolerate occasional interactions with the public;” and that he “is unable to perform fast paced production work.” (AR at 43.)

         At step four, the ALJ determined that “[t]he claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work.” (AR at 46.)

         At step five, the ALJ determined that, “[c]onsidering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant could perform.” (AR at 47.) In making this determination, the ALJ relied on a vocational expert (“VE”), who testified that a hypothetical individual with these given factors “would be able to perform the requirements of representative sedentary, unskilled occupations such as: a document preparer, DOT# 249.587.018 (47, 000 jobs in the national economy); an assembly worker, DOT# 706.684.030, (25, 000 jobs in the national economy); a cutter, DOT# 249.587.014 (4, 000 jobs in the national economy).” (AR at 47.)

         Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision, but on September 8, 2018, the Appeals Council denied that request, finding no basis for changing the ALJ's decision. (AR at 1.) Plaintiff filed the present action in this Court on November 9, 2018. (DE 2.) On April 5, 2019, Plaintiff filed his motion for summary judgment (DE 13), and on May 6, 2019, Defendant filed his motion for summary judgment (DE 21).

         ANALYSIS

         This Court's review of the decision by the ALJ is limited to determining whether it “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) (quoting Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007)). Under Sixth Circuit law, “[t]he substantial evidence standard is met if a reasonable mind might accept the relevant evidence as adequate to support a conclusion, ” and a court “will defer to that finding even if there is substantial evidence in the record that would ...


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