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Hylton v. Astrue

April 9, 2008

KEVIN L. HYLTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Leon Jordan United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This is an action for judicial review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), of defendant Commissioner's final decision denying plaintiff's claim for disability insurance and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. For the reasons that follow, defendant's motion for summary judgment [doc. 12] will be granted, and plaintiff's motion for summary judgment [doc. 10] will be denied. The final decision of the Commissioner will be affirmed.

I. Procedural History

Plaintiff applied for benefits in February 2004. [Tr. 60, 351]. He originally alleged a disability onset date of December 31, 1999. [Tr. 60, 351]. The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. Plaintiff then requested a hearing, which took place before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") in September 2005.*fn1

On December 30, 2005, the ALJ issued a decision concluding that plaintiff was not entitled to benefits. [Tr. 15-27]. Plaintiff then sought review from the Commissioner's Appeals Council. Review was denied on May 1, 2007, notwithstanding the submission of additional medical evidence. [Tr. 6, 9].*fn2 The ALJ's ruling therefore became the Commissioner's final decision. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481. Through his timely complaint, plaintiff has properly brought his case before this court for review. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

II. Applicable Legal Standards

This court's review is confined to whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards and whether his factual findings were supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997). "Substantial evidence" is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). The substantial evidence standard "presupposes that there is a zone of choice within which the decisionmakers can go either way, without interference by the courts. An administrative decision is not subject to reversal merely because substantial evidence would have supported an opposite decision." Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986) (citation omitted).

A claimant is entitled to disability insurance payments if he (1) is insured for disability insurance benefits, (2) has not attained retirement age, (3) has filed an application for disability insurance benefits, and (4) is under a disability. 42 U.S.C. § 423(a)(1). "Disability" is the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).

An individual shall be determined to be under a disability only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be hired if he applied for work.

42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).*fn3 Disability is evaluated pursuant to a five-step analysis:

1. If claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, he is not disabled.

2. If claimant is not doing substantial gainful activity, his impairment must be severe before he can be found to be disabled.

3. If claimant is not doing substantial gainful activity and is suffering from a severe impairment that has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months, and his impairment meets or equals a listed ...


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