Ward v. SSA
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER: Plas Motion for Summary Judgment 9 be OVERRULED and Dfts Motion for Summary Judgment 11 be SUSTAINED. A judgment in favor of Dft will be entered contemporaneously herewith. Signed by Judge Henry R. Wilhoit, Jr. on 7/16/2021. (TDA) cc: COR
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
Civil Action No. 20-21-HRW
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
Plaintiff has brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. '405(g) to challenge a final
decision of the Defendant denying Plaintiff=s application for disability insurance benefits. The
Court having reviewed the record in this case and the dispositive motions filed by the parties,
finds that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge is supported by substantial evidence and
should be affirmed.
I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff filed his current application for disability insurance benefits on December 15,
2015, alleging disability beginning on December 9, 2015, due to “breathing problems, hearing
problems [and] back/neck/shoulder problems (Tr. 1355). This application was denied initially
and on reconsideration. Thereafter, upon request by Plaintiff, an administrative hearing was
conducted by Administrative Law Judge Charles Wood (hereinafter AALJ@), wherein Plaintiff,
accompanied by counsel, testified. At the hearing, Riedl, a vocational expert (hereinafter AVE@),
At the hearing, pursuant to 20 C.F.R. ' 416.920, the ALJ performed the following five-
step sequential analysis in order to determine whether the Plaintiff was disabled:
Step 1: If the claimant is performing substantial gainful work, he is not disabled.
Step 2: If the claimant is not performing substantial gainful work, his impairment(s)
must be severe before he can be found to be disabled based upon the requirements in 20
C.F.R. ' 416.920(b).
Step 3: If the claimant is not performing substantial gainful work and has a severe
impairment (or impairments) that has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period
of at least twelve months, and his impairments (or impairments) meets or medically
equals a listed impairment contained in Appendix 1, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4, the
claimant is disabled without further inquiry.
Step 4: If the claimant=s impairment (or impairments) does not prevent him from doing
his past relevant work, he is not disabled.
Step 5: Even if the claimant=s impairment or impairments prevent him from performing
his past relevant work, if other work exists in significant numbers in the national
economy that accommodates his residual functional capacity and vocational factors, he is
The ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled. Plaintiff was 48 years
old at the time he alleges he became disabled. He has a 12th grade education (Tr. 1356). His
past relevant work experience consists of work as a coal miner.
At Step 1 of the sequential analysis, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of disability.
The ALJ then determined, at Step 2, that Plaintiff suffers from degenerative joint disease,
degenerative disc disease, hypertension, obesity, generalized anxiety disorder and depression,
which he found to be Asevere@ within the meaning of the Regulations.
At Step 3, the ALJ found that Plaintiff=s impairments did not meet or medically equal any
of the listed impairments
The ALJ further found that Plaintiff could not return to his past relevant work but
determined that he has the residual functional capacity (ARFC@) to perform a range of light work
as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), except that he could only occasionally stoop, kneel,
crouch, crawl, climb ramps and stairs, and operate push/pull controls with his legs; could not
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds or reach overhead or operate controls with his left arm; and
should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme temperatures, vibration, environmental irritants,
and hazards (Tr. 826-27). Mentally, Plaintiff could perform simple, routine, and repetitive tasks
with occasional and superficial interaction with coworkers and supervisors and no contact with
the public (Tr. 827).
The ALJ finally concluded that these jobs exist in significant numbers in the national
and regional economies, as identified by the VE.
Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff not to be disabled at Step 5 of the sequential
The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff=s request for review and adopted the ALJ=s decision
as the final decision of the Commissioner . Plaintiff thereafter filed this civil action seeking a
reversal of the Commissioner=s decision. Both parties have filed Motions for Summary
Judgment and this matter is ripe for decision.
The essential issue on appeal to this Court is whether the ALJ=s decision is supported by
substantial evidence. "Substantial evidence@ is defined as Asuch relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion;" it is based on the record as a
whole and must take into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from its weight. Garner
v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984).
If the Commissioner=s decision is supported by
substantial evidence, the reviewing Court must affirm. Kirk v. Secretary of Health and Human
Services, 667 F.2d 524, 535 (6th Cir. 1981), cert. denied, 461 U.S. 957 (1983). AThe court may
not try the case de novo nor resolve conflicts in evidence, nor decide questions of credibility.@
Bradley v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 862 F.2d 1224, 1228 (6th Cir. 1988).
Finally, this Court must defer to the Commissioner=s decision "even if there is substantial
evidence in the record that would have supported an opposite conclusion, so long as substantial
evidence supports the conclusion reached by the ALJ." Key v. Callahan, 109 F.3d 270, 273 (6th
In his brief, Plaintiff makes only a general argument of error – a recitation of medical
records, followed by “boilerplate” statements of the law without tying the two together. As
Defendant points out, his arguments are not specific to his case. Indeed, in the “argument”
section of his brief, he fails to cite the record at all. This Court could deem any argument
presented in this manner waived. See McPherson v. Kelsey, 125 F.3d 989, 995–96 (6th Cir.1997)
(“issues adverted to in a perfunctory manner, unaccompanied by some effort at developed
argumentation, are deemed waived. It is not sufficient for a party to mention a possible argument
in the most skeletal way, leaving the court to ... put flesh on its bones”). In Hollon ex rel.
Hollan v. Commissioner of Social Security, 447 F.3d 477, 490–491 (6th Cir.2006), a claimant
similarly contended that the Commissioner's decision to discontinue her benefits was not
supported by substantial evidence, yet made little effort to develop this argument in her brief or
to identify any specific aspects of the Commissioner's determination that lacked support in the
record. In these circumstances, the Sixth Circuit noted that it “decline[d] to formulate arguments
on [a claimant's] behalf, or to undertake an open-ended review of the entirety of the
administrative record to determine (I) whether it might contain evidence that arguably is
inconsistent with the Commissioner's decision, and (ii) if so, whether the Commissioner
sufficiently accounted for this evidence. Rather, we limit our consideration to the particular
points that [a claimant] appears to raise in [his/her] brief on appeal.” Id. at 491. See also United
States v. Phibbs, 999 F.2d 1053, 1080 n. 12 (6th Cir.1993)(noting that “it is not our function to
craft an appellant's arguments”).
Nonetheless, the Court has reviewed the ALJ’s decision as well as the record herein and
finds the decision is supported and without error.
With regard to Plaintiff’s physical condition, the ALJ noted that records from the relevant
time period show that he received minimal care and conservative treatment. With regard to his
mental functioning, the ALJ again noted the largely normal findings. In addition, the ALJ
discussed Plaintiff’s own description of his daily activities, such as light chores, drove locally,
and assisted in caring for two grandchildren to be inconsistent with his testimony of disabling
impairment. See Walters v. Commissioner of Social Security, 127 F.3d 525, 532 (6th Cir. 1997)
(A[a]n ALJ may consider household and social activities engaged in by the claimant in evaluating
a claimant=s assertions of pain or ailments@).
It is clear the ALJ reasonably considered the entire record and found that, although
Plaintiff has certain functional limitations, he is capable of performing a range of work-related
activity and, as such, is not disabled.
The Court finds that the ALJ=s decision is supported by substantial evidence on the
Accordingly, it is HEREBY ORDERED that the Plaintiff=s Motion for Summary
Judgment be OVERRULED and the Defendant=s Motion for Summary Judgment be
A judgment in favor of the Defendant will be entered contemporaneously herewith.
This 16th day of July 2021.
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