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Lamb v. Colvin

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

December 14, 2016

JENNIFER LEE LAMB
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Acting Commissioner of Social Security

          MEMORANDUM

          BARBARA D. HOLMES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) to obtain judicial review of the final decision of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying her claim for a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), as provided under Title II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”). The case is currently pending on Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the administrative record (Docket Entry No. 12), to which Defendant has responded (Docket Entry No. 13). Plaintiff also filed a subsequent reply to Defendant's response (Docket Entry No. 14-1). This action is before the undersigned for all further proceedings pursuant to the consent of the parties and the District Judge in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) (Docket Entry No. 21).

         Upon review of the administrative record as a whole and consideration of the parties' filings, Plaintiff's motion is DENIED, and the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and DIB on August 21, 2008. See Transcript of the Administrative Record (Docket Entry No. 10) at 51, 53.[1] She alleged a disability onset date of October 15, 2007. AR 51, 53, 111. Plaintiff asserted that she was unable to work because of seizures and headaches. AR 52, 54.[2]

         Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration AR 51-54. Pursuant to her request for a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), Plaintiff testified at a hearing before ALJ Linda Gail Roberts on August 4, 2010. AR 26. On August 24, 2010, the ALJ denied the claim. AR 10-12. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision on August 15, 2012 (AR 1-3), thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. This civil action was thereafter timely filed, and the Court has jurisdiction. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         II. THE ALJ FINDINGS

         The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on August 24, 2010. AR 10. Based upon the record, the ALJ made the following enumerated 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 October 15, 2007, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: seizure disorder, headaches, major depressive disorder, and anxiety disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(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 and 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) (lift and/or carry 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently; stand and/or walk about 6 hours in an 8-hour workday; sit for a total of about 6 hours per day) except that she should never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds, and should avoid all exposure to hazards such as machinery and heights. Additionally, the claimant is able to understand and remember and understand simple and detailed instructions; maintain attention, concentration, persistence and pace with some difficulty; interact appropriately with others; and adapt to changes with some difficulty.
6. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work as a placement interviewer (sedentary, skilled). This work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the claimant's residual functional capacity (20 CFR 404.1565).
7. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from October 15, 2007, through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(f)).

AR 15-20.

         III. REVIEW OF THE RECORD

         The parties and the ALJ have thoroughly summarized and discussed the medical and testimonial evidence of the administrative record. Accordingly, the Court will discuss those matters only to the extent necessary to analyze the parties' arguments.

         IV. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

         A. Standard of Review

         The determination of disability under the Act is an administrative decision. The only questions before this Court upon judicial review are: (i) whether the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence; and (ii) whether the Commissioner made legal errors in the process of reaching the decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971) (adopting and defining substantial evidence standard in context of Social Security cases); Kyle v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 609 F.3d 847, 854 (6th Cir. 2010). The Commissioner's decision must be affirmed if it is supported by substantial evidence, “even if there is substantial evidence in the record that would have supported an opposite conclusion.” Blakley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 406 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Key v. Callahan, 109 F.3d 270, 273 (6th Cir. 1997)); Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 477 (6th Cir. 2003); Her v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 203 F.3d 388, 389-90 (6th Cir. 1999).

         Substantial evidence is defined as “more than a mere scintilla” and “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401 (quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229, 59 S.Ct. 206, 83 L.Ed. 126 (1938)); Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007); LeMaster v. Weinberger, 533 F.2d 337, 339 (6th Cir. 1976) (quoting Sixth Circuit opinions adopting language substantially similar to that in Richardson).

         The Court's review of the Commissioner's decision is limited to the record made in the administrative hearing process. Jones v. Secretary, 945 F.2d 1365, 1369 (6th Cir. 1991). A reviewing court may not try the case de novo, resolve conflicts in evidence, or decide questions of credibility. See, e.g., Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984) (citing Myers v. Richardson, 471 F.2d 1265, 1268 (6th Cir. 1972)). The Court must accept the ALJ's explicit findings and determination unless the record as a whole is without substantial evidence to ...


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