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Mackey v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

November 2, 2016

TORREY MACKEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         Before the Court is Magistrate Judge Guyton's Report and Recommendation (“R&R”). [D. 27]. He recommends that the Court deny Mackey's motion for summary judgment [D. 22] and grant the Commissioner's [D. 25]. Mackey has objected to certain parts of the R&R. [D. 30]. The Court will review those parts of the R&R de novo. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3).

         When an administrative law judge deems someone not disabled, the Court reviews that decision along two bases: whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards, and whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence. Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994) (per curiam). “Substantial evidence” is evidence that a reasonable mind might think good enough to support a conclusion. Id. An ALJ's decision can be based on substantial evidence even if other evidence would support a different decision. Crisp v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 790 F.2d 450, 453 n.4 (6th Cir. 1986) (per curiam). When reviewing the ALJ's decision, the Court does not resolve conflicts in the evidence. Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984).

         Mackey seeks Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). A person qualifies for DIB if he (1) is insured for it; (2) has not reached the age of retirement; (3) has applied for DIB; and (4) is disabled. 42 U.S.C. § 423(a)(1). To receive SSI benefits, one must apply for them and be an “eligible individual.” Id. § 1382(a). Whether someone is an eligible individual is based on their finances and their age, blindness, or disability. Id.

         To qualify for DIB or SSI benefits, then, Mackey must show that he is disabled. To determine whether someone claiming these benefits is disabled, the ALJ applies a five-step process:

1. If the claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, he is not disabled.
2. If the claimant is not doing substantial gainful activity, his impairment must be severe.
3. If the claimant is not doing substantial gainful activity, his impairment is severe, his impairment has lasted or will last at least twelve months, and his impairment matches an impairment listed in the Social Security regulations, then he is disabled.
4. If the claimant's impairment does not prevent him from doing his past work, he is not disabled.
5. If the claimant's impairment prevents him from doing his past work, but other work exists in the national economy that he can perform with his impairment, he is not disabled.

Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 529 (6th Cir. 1997) (discussing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520). Mackey raises two broad objections to the R&R, both of which focus on Step Three: his impairment meets Listing 1.04, and it meets Listing 12.06.

         Mackey first argues that his impairments satisfy Listing 1.04. This listing requires that the claimant show that he has a disorder of the spine resulting in a compromised nerve root, with

A. Evidence of nerve root compression characterized by neuro-anatomic distribution of pain, limitation of motion of the spine, motor loss (atrophy with associated muscle weakness or muscle weakness) accompanied by sensory or reflect loss and, if there is involvement of the lower back, positive straight-leg raising test (sitting and supine); or
B. Spinal arachnoiditis, confirmed by an operative note or pathology report of tissue biopsy, or by appropriate medically acceptable imaging, manifested by severe burning or painful dysesthesia, resulting in the need for changes in position or posture more than once every 2 hours; or
C. Lumbar spinal stenosis resulting in pseudoclaudication, established by findings on appropriate medically acceptable imaging, manifested by chronic nonradicular pain and weakness, and resulting in inability ...

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