United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
WILLIAM B. MITCHELL 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 the 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 Pleadings (Doc. 15) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 17).
For the reasons stated herein, I RECOMMEND the decision of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED.
Plaintiff's Age, Education, and Past Work Experience
Plaintiff was 37 years old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 34). Plaintiff reported two years of college education and had past relevant work experience as a cashier, pizza delivery driver/cook, fast food preparer and waiter, guard service security officer, and print shop assistant (Tr. 196, 200).
Applications for Benefits
Plaintiff protectively filed his applications for disability insurance benefits under Title II, and for SSI under Title XVI, on May 20, 2011 (Tr. 136-39, 140-45). He alleges a disability onset date of January 18, 2009 (Tr. 136, 195-96). His application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff then requested a hearing which was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). On February 27, 2013, following a hearing, an ALJ found that Plaintiff was not under a "disability" because he retained the functional capacity to perform work existing in significant numbers in the national economy (Tr. 11-23). Plaintiff appealed to the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council declined to review the claim (Tr. 1-7). Plaintiff timely filed a complaint with 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 he/she is unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to the existence of "a 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. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 902 F.2d 447, 449-50 (6th Cir. 1990). Once, however, 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. Secretary, 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. Secretary, 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 and 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. Secretary, 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, 2013.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 18, 2009, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq, and 416.971 et seq. ).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), hyperactive, impulsive; bipolar I disorder, manic; rule-out Asperger's disorder; spondylolisthesis; and obesity (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 one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 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 perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except the claimant is able to climb ramps or stairs occasionally, never climb ladders ropes or scaffolds, and can frequently balance, stoop, kneel, and crawl. He should not operate heavy machinery. He can carry out simple, as well as detailed, instructions and tasks, but cannot carry out instructions and tasks at an executive level. The claimant can maintain attention, concentration, persistence and pace in 2 hour segments of time, with customary breaks between segments. He can tolerate ...