United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee
NANCY L. McCOMB, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
matter was referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b), Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, and the Rules of this Court for a report and
recommendation regarding the disposition by the District
Court of the plaintiff's Motion For Summary Judgment
[Doc. 14], and the defendant's Motion For Summary
Judgment [Doc. 16]. Plaintiff Nancy L. McComb
(“McComb”) seeks judicial review of the decision
of the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), the
final decision of the defendant Commissioner.
was 54 years of age when the ALJ issued the Decision in this
case in March, 2010. She is a high school graduate, with over
nine years of work experience as a computer programmer and a
CAD Draftsman for Bechtel National (Tr. 31-32; 237-238). At a
November, 2009 hearing before the ALJ, McComb, citing
impairments, testified that she has not worked since
November, 1998 (Tr. 37).
Court has considered the medical evidence in the record, the
testimony at the hearings, and all other evidence in the
record. The parties have filed Memoranda [Docs. 15, 17]. The
medical history of the Plaintiff and the content of the
ALJ's Decision are not in dispute, and need not be
reviewing the Commissioner's determination of whether an
individual is disabled pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
the Court is limited to determining “whether the ALJ
applied the correct legal standards and whether the findings
of the ALJ are supported by substantial evidence.”
Blakley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399,
405 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Key v. Callahan, 109
F.3d 270, 273 (6th Cir. 1997)). If the ALJ applied the
correct legal standards and the ALJ's findings are
supported by substantial evidence in the record, the decision
is conclusive and must be affirmed. Warner v. Comm'r
of Soc. Sec., 375 F.3d 387, 390 (6th Cir. 2004); 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is “more
than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance;
it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Rogers
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir.
2007) (quotation omitted); see also Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consol.
Edison v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)).
immaterial whether the record may also possess substantial
evidence to support a different conclusion from that reached
by the ALJ, or whether the reviewing judge may have decided
the case differently. Crisp v. Sec'y of Health &
Human Servs., 790 F.2d 450, 453 n.4 (6th Cir. 1986). The
substantial evidence standard is intended to create a
“zone of choice' within which the Commissioner can
act, without the fear of court interference.”
Buxton v. Halter, 246 F.3d 762, 773 (6th Cir. 2001)
(quoting Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th
Cir. 1986)). Therefore, the Court will not “try the
case de novo, nor resolve conflicts in the evidence, nor
decide questions of credibility.” Walters, 127
F.3d at 528.
addition to reviewing the ALJ's findings to determine
whether they were supported by substantial evidence, the
Court also reviews the ALJ's decision to determine
whether it was reached through application of the correct
legal standards and in accordance with the procedure mandated
by the regulations and rulings promulgated by the
Commissioner. See Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
378 F.3d 541, 544 (6th Cir. 2004). The Court may, however,
decline to reverse and remand the Commissioner's
determination if it finds that the ALJ's procedural
errors were harmless. An ALJ's violation of the Social
Security Administration's procedural rules is harmless
and will not result in reversible error “absent a
showing that the claimant has been prejudiced on the merits
or deprived of substantial rights because of the [ALJ]'s
procedural lapses.” Wilson, 378 F.3d at
546-47. Thus, an ALJ's procedural error is harmless if
the ultimate decision was supported by substantial evidence
and the error did not deprive the claimant of an important
benefit or safeguard. See id. at 547.
review, Plaintiff bears the burden of proving entitlement to
benefits. Boyes v. Sec'y. of Health & Human
Servs., 46 F.3d 510, 512 (6th Cir. 1994) (citing
Halsey v. Richardson, 441 F.2d 1230 (6th Cir.
OF THE PARTIES
is seeking disability benefits for the time period of
November, 1998 through June 30, 2004 (Tr. 28). McComb
testified, before the ALJ, that she was disabled due to
“fatigue”, “depression”, and
“brain fog” (Tr. 33). She also related episodes
of panic attacks and trouble sleeping (Tr. 37-38). In support
of her claim, McComb primarily relies on the assessments of
her physician, Dr. Pamela Bridgeman, and her therapist,
Commissioner's position is that the ALJ properly reviewed
and considered the medical evidence in the record, and the
record as a whole. The Commissioner argues that all other
complaints about the ALJ's Decision are not ...