United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
Gregory F. Van Tatenhove, United States District Judge.
Ray Reams seeks judicial review of an administrative decision
of the Commissioner of Social Security, which denied his
claim for disability insurance benefits. Mr. Reams 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. Reams'
Motion for Summary Judgment and GRANT the
Daniel Ray Reams filed an application for disability
insurance benefits on November 30, 2016, alleging disability
beginning September 18, 2016. [Transcript (“Tr.”)
11.] This initial application was denied on March 14, 2017.
Id. at 70-73. Mr. Reams requested reconsideration
and a video hearing. Id. at 11. That hearing was
held on November 30, 2017. [See Tr. 134; R. 7-1 at
1.] On January 23, 2018, Administrative Law Judge Tommye C.
Mangus returned an unfavorable decision as to Mr. Reams'
claim. [Tr. 8.] Mr. Reams then requested review from the
Appeals Council, who denied this request. Id. at 1.
evaluate a claim of disability for Title II disability
insurance benefit claims, an ALJ conducts a five-step
analysis. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. 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 an impairment or combination of
impairments which significantly limits 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, the ALJ must determine whether a claimant's
impairments meet or equal one of the impairments listed in 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. C.F.R. §
404.1530(d). If so, he is “disabled.” If not, the
analysis proceeds to the next step. Id. However,
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
assesses an individual's ability to perform certain
physical and mental 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, the ALJ will consider
whether a claimant's impairments (considering his RFC,
age, education, and past work) prevent him from doing other
work that exists in the national economy. If so, that
claimant is “disabled.” 20 C.F.R. §
Step 4 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 5, 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).
case, at Step 1, the ALJ found Mr. Reams had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the alleged disability
onset date, September 18, 2016. [Tr. 14.] At Step 2, the ALJ
found that Mr. Reams' severe impairments consisted of
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression,
cervicalgia, and degenerative joint disease of the ankles.
Id. At Step 3, the ALJ determined that Mr. Reams did
not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met
or medically equaled the degree of severity of one of the
listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
1. [Tr. 15.] Specifically, the ALJ found that Mr. Reams
failed to present specific medical evidence sufficient to
satisfy the paragraph B or paragraph C criteria with regards
to listings 12.04, 12.06, and 12.15. Id. at 15-16.
Next, based upon the evidence, the ALJ determined that Mr.
Reams had a residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform a
range of unskilled light work. Id. at 17-18. At Step
4, the ALJ acknowledged that Mr. Reams' impairments
prevented him from performing any past relevant work.
Id. at 20. At Step 5, however, after hearing
testimony from the neutral vocational expert, the ALJ found
that Mr. Reams could perform other work existing in
significant numbers in the national economy. Id. at
20-21. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Reams was not
disabled since September 18, 2016. Id. at 21. Mr.
Reams filed this action for review on October 23, 2018. [R.
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).
“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 supports the opposite
conclusion. See Ulman, 693 F.3d at 714; Bass v.
McMahon, 499 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007); Her v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 203 F.3d 388, 389-90 (6th Cir.
Reams presents two arguments to this Court as grounds for
relief from the ALJ's unfavorable decision. Specifically,
he argues (1) the ALJ erred at Step 3 in determining that Mr.
Reams' PTSD and attendant limitations did not meet the
criteria of Listing 12.15 in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1, and (2) that the ALJ's finding that Mr. Reams
was not disabled was unsupported by substantial evidence and,
relatedly, reflected an improper evaluation of Mr. Reams'