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Beaty v. Saul

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

October 28, 2019

WILLIAM MICHAEL BEATY PLAINTIFF
v.
ANDREW SAUL, COMMISSIONER SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION[1] DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          H. Brent Brennenstuhl, United States Magistrate Judge.

         BACKGROUND

         Before the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of William Michael Beaty seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both Beaty (DN 14, 17) and the Commissioner (DN 19) 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.

         Pursuant 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). The parties were notified that oral arguments would not be held unless a written request therefor was filed and granted (DN 12). No. such request was filed.

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         Beaty filed an application for period of disability and disability insurance benefits on May 20, 2016 (Tr. 175-76). Beaty alleged that he became disabled on June 1, 2014 as a result of Degeneration in L-3 and L-4; L-1 though L-5 herniated or bulging discs; bad knees; bad shoulders; bad neck; rheumatoid arthritis; sleeping problems; anxiety (Tr. 186). Administrative Law Judge Brian Steger (“ALJ”) conducted a hearing on June 6, 2018 via teleconference. Beaty appeared in Bowling Green, Kentucky and the ALJ presided from St. Louis, Missouri. Plaintiff was represented by Debra L. Broz. Also present and testifying was Kathleen L. Reis, an impartial vocational expert.

         In a decision dated June 29, 2018, the ALJ evaluated this adult disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr. 9-19). At the first step, the ALJ found Beaty has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 1, 2014, the alleged onset date (Tr. 11). At the second step, the ALJ determined that Beaty's lumbar degenerative disc disease, left shoulder tendonitis, and generalized osteoporosis are “severe” impairments within the meaning of the regulations (Tr. 11). Notably, at the second step, the ALJ also determined that Beaty's left knee impairment, left foot impairment, and rheumatoid arthritis are Anon-severe” impairments within the meaning of the regulations (Tr. 12). At the third step, the ALJ concluded that Beaty does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in Appendix 1 (Tr. 14).

         At the fourth step, the ALJ found Beaty has the residual functional capacity to perform light work with limitations (Tr. 15). More specifically, the ALJ found that Beaty cannot climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds, but is otherwise capable of occasional postural activities; he is capable of occasionally reaching above shoulder level and frequently reaching in all other directions with the non-dominant, left upper extremity; he is to avoid exposure to hazards, including unprotected heights and moving mechanical parts; he is incapable of operating a motor vehicle for work. (Tr. 15). Relying on testimony from the vocational expert, the ALJ found that Beaty is unable to perform any of his/her past relevant work (Tr. 17).

         The ALJ proceeded to the fifth step where he considered Beaty's residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience as well as testimony from the vocational expert (Tr. 18). The ALJ found that Beaty can perform a significant number of jobs that exist in the national economy (Tr. 18). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Beaty has not been under a “disability, ” as defined in the Social Security Act, from June 1, 2014 through the date last insured (Tr. 18).

         Beaty timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision (Tr. 231-38). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-8).

         CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

         Standard of Review

         Review 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)).

         As previously mentioned, the Appeals Council denied Beaty's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-8). 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 ...


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