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 Michael Smith 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 20) have filed a Fact and Law Summary.
For the reasons that follow, the undersigned orders that
judgment be 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 July 12, 2019 (DN 12), the parties were notified that
oral arguments would not be held unless a written request was
filed and granted. No. such request was filed.
filed an application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits on August 31, 2016 (Tr.
290-96). Smith alleged that he became disabled on August 13,
2015 as a result of broken back-herniated/spinal disc and
shoulder surgery on the left rotator cuff (Tr. 314).
Administrative Law Judge David Peeples (“ALJ”)
conducted a hearing on June 26, 2018 via video conference
presiding from Paducah, Kentucky. Smith appeared from
Madisonville, KY. Smith was represented by Brian Newlin, an
attorney, and Sean P. Sullivan, a non-attorney
representative. Also present and testifying was Theresa
Wolford, an impartial vocational expert.
decision dated October 24, 2018, the ALJ evaluated this adult
disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential
evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr.
47-56). At the first step, the ALJ found Smith has not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 13,
2015, the alleged onset date (Tr. 49). At the second step,
the ALJ determined that Smith's spine degeneration,
status post discectomy/hemilaminectomy resection and
fixation, left rotator teat, status post shoulder arthroscopy
with subacromial decompression and rotator cuff repair are
“severe” impairments within the meaning of the
regulations (Tr. 49). At the third step, the ALJ concluded
that Smith does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed
impairments in Appendix 1 (Tr. 50).
fourth step, the ALJ found Smith has the residual functional
capacity to perform a limited range of light work (Tr. 50).
More specifically, the ALJ found that Smith can not
frequently climb ramps and stairs; never climb ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds; can balance frequently, but only
occasionally stoop, kneel, and crouch; can never crawl; can
frequently reach overhead with the left (non-dominate) upper
extremity; and must avoid concentrated exposure to vibrations
and hazards (i.e. unprotected heights and moving mechanical
parts) (Tr. 50). Relying on testimony from the vocational
expert, the ALJ found that Smith is capable of performing
past relevant work as a Quality Assurance Monitor (Tr. 55).
Because the ALJ found Smith could perform past relevant work,
he did not need to proceed to the fifth step.
timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the
ALJ's decision (Tr. 335-342). The Appeals Council denied
Smith's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr.
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. 1-4). 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 ...