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Lewis v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga

November 4, 2014

CARRIE LEWIS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

WILLIAM B. CARTER, Magistrate Judge.

This action was instituted pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ¶¶ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner denying Plaintiff a period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security income under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. ¶¶ 416(I), 423, and 1382.

This matter has been referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ¶ 636(b) and Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for a report and recommendation regarding the disposition of Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record (Doc. 12) and Defendant=s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 15).

For the reasons stated herein, I RECOMMEND the decision of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED.

Plaintiff's Age, Education, and Past Work Experience

Plaintiff was 29 years old at the time of the ALJ decision (Tr. 22, 114). She has an eighth grade education and past relevant work experience as a deli clerk, cafeteria attendant, and fast food worker (Tr. 39, 48).

Applications for Benefits

Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits (DIB), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on August 21, 2009, alleging disability beginning the same day (Tr. 56-57, 114). The agency denied her applications initially, upon reconsideration, and in the March 14, 2012 decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") (Tr. 9-22, 63-66, 71-74). Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision with the Appeals Council which was denied on June 12, 2013 (Tr. 1-4, 7). Plaintiff has exhausted her administrative remedies and has timely filed a civil action in this Court. This case is now ripe for review under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3).

Standard of Review - Findings of the ALJ

To establish disability under the Social Security Act, a claimant must establish she is unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to the existence of Aa medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result in death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months.@ 42 U.S.C. ¶ 423(d)(1)(A); Abbot v. Sullivan, 905 F.2d 918, 923 (6th Cir. 1990). The Commissioner employs a five-step sequential evaluation to determine whether an adult claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. ¶ 404.1520. The following five issues are addressed in order: (1) if the claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity he/she is not disabled; (2) if the claimant does not have a severe impairment he/she is not disabled; (3) if the claimant=s impairment meets or equals a listed impairment he/she is disabled; (4) if the claimant is capable of returning to work he/she has done in the past he/she is not disabled; (5) if the claimant can do other work that exists in significant numbers in the regional or the national economy he/she is not disabled. Id If the ALJ makes a dispositive finding at any step, the inquiry ends without proceeding to the next step. 20 C.F.R. ¶ 404.1520; Skinner v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 902 F.2d 447, 449-50 (6th Cir. 1990). However, once the claimant makes a prima facie case that he/she cannot return to his/her former occupation, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that there is work in the national economy which he/she can perform considering his/her age, education and work experience. Richardson v. Sec'y, Health and Human Servs., 735 F.2d 962, 964 (6th Cir. 1984); Noe v. Weinberger, 512 F.2d 588, 595 (6th Cir. 1975).

The standard of judicial review by this Court is whether the findings of the Commissioner are supported by substantial evidence. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 28 L.Ed.2d 842, 92 S.Ct. 1420 (1971); Landsaw v. Sec'y, Health and Human Servs., 803 F.2d 211, 213 (6th Cir. 1986). Even if there is evidence on the other side, if there is evidence to support the Commissioner's findings, they must be affirmed. Ross v. Richardson, 440 F.2d 690, 691 (6th Cir. 1971). The Court may not reweigh the evidence or substitute its own judgment for that of the Commissioner merely because substantial evidence exists in the record to support a different conclusion. The substantial evidence standard allows considerable latitude to administrative decision makers. It presupposes there is a zone of choice within which the decision makers can go either way, without interference by the courts. Felisky v. Bowen, 35 F.3d 1027 (6th Cir. 1994) (citing Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 548 (6th Cir. 1986)); Crisp v. Sec'y, Health and Human Servs., 790 F.2d 450 n. 4 (6th Cir. 1986).

After considering the entire record, the ALJ made the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2012.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 21, 2009, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq. ).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: cervical and lumbar radiculopathy and bipolar disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, and 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; stand and/or walk for 2 hours in an 8-hour workday; sit without restriction; can remember and understand multi-step directions, can maintain concentration, persistence and pace, can interact with others in a structured, non-intensive environment and can adapt to infrequent change.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on March 1, 1983 and was 26 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability ...

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