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McGhee v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, Western District of Tennessee

March 23, 2015

WALTER MCGHEE, II, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

ORDER AFFIRMING DECISION OF COMMISSIONER

JAMES D. TODD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Plaintiff, pro se, has filed this action to obtain judicial review of Defendant Commissioner's final decision denying his applications for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (“Act”) and supplemental security income (“SSI”). Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration and then by order of an ALJ on December 6, 2010.

The Appeals Council remanded the case to the ALJ for further proceedings. On August 29, 2012, following a hearing, the ALJ issued another unfavorable decision. Plaintiff filed a complaint in federal court requesting review of the hearing decision. Subsequently, Plaintiff filed a request for review by the Appeals Council. On October 23, 2013, this court dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint on the ground that he had not exhausted his administrative remedies. After reviewing additional evidence, the Appeals Council affirmed the ALJ's decision. This decision became the Commissioner's final decision. Plaintiff then filed this action, requesting reversal of the decision of the Commissioner. For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a claimant may obtain judicial review of any final decision made by the Commissioner after a hearing to which he was a party. “The court shall have the power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing.” Id. The court's review is limited to determining whether or not there is substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and whether the correct legal standards were applied. See Lindsley v. Commissioner, 560 F.3d 601, 604–08 (6th Cir. 2009); Kyle v. Commissioner, 609 F.3d 847, 854 (6th Cir. 2010).

The Commissioner, not the court, is charged with the duty to weigh the evidence, to make credibility determinations and resolve material conflicts in the testimony, and to decide the case accordingly. See Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007). When substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's determination, it is conclusive, even if substantial evidence also supports the opposite conclusion. See Foster v. Halter, 279 F.3d 348, 353 (6th Cir. 2001); Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986). A reviewing court must defer to findings of fact by an appeals council when those findings conflict with the factual findings of the ALJ. Id. at 545.

Plaintiff was born in 1973 and alleges that he became disabled on April 20, 2007. R. 205, 215. He alleges disability due to depression, nervousness, and insomnia, R. 205, headaches, backaches, stomachaches, and hearing problems. R. 219.

The ALJ enumerated the following findings: (1) Plaintiff met the disability insured status requirements through June 30, 2010; (2) Plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity from April 20, 2007, until September 2009 and did not engage in substantial gainful activity after June 2010; (3) Plaintiff has the medically determinable impairment of congenital deformity of right ear; but it is not severe because it did not significantly limit his ability to perform basic work-related activities for at least twelve consecutive months; (4) Plaintiff was not under a disability as defined in the Act at any time through the date of this decision.

The Social Security Act defines disability as the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1). The claimant bears the ultimate burden of establishing an entitlement to benefits. Born v. Secretary, 923 F.2d 1168, 1173 (6th Cir. 1990). The initial burden of going forward is on the claimant to show that he is disabled from engaging in his former employment; the burden of going forward then shifts to the Commissioner to demonstrate the existence of available employment compatible with the claimant's disability and background. Id.

The Commissioner conducts the following, five-step analysis to determine if an individual is disabled within the meaning of the Act:

1. An individual who is engaging in substantial gainful activity will not be found to be disabled regardless of medical findings.
2. An individual who does not have a severe impairment will not be found to be disabled.
3. A finding of disability will be made without consideration of vocational factors, if an individual is not working and is suffering from a severe impairment which meets the duration requirement and which meets or equals a listed impairment in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the regulations.
4. An individual who can perform work that he has done in the past will not be found to be disabled.
5. If an individual cannot perform his or her past work, other factors including age, education, past work experience and residual functional capacity must be considered ...

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