United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
BROWN United States Magistrate Judge
Honorable Aleta A. Trauger, United States District Judge
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the Plaintiff seeks judicial
review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (“SSA”)
terminating the Plaintiff's disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. (Doc. 16). For the
following reasons, the Magistrate Judge
RECOMMENDS that the Plaintiff's motion
for judgment on the administrative record (Doc. 16) be
GRANTED to the extent that the case is
REVERSED AND REMANDED pursuant to sentence
four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for consideration under the
appropriate burden of proof.
a cessation of benefits case. The SSA initially awarded the
Plaintiff disability benefits effective March 18, 1999. (Doc.
14, p. 123). As of June 14, 2010, the SSA determined
the Plaintiff continued to be disabled. (Doc. 14, p. 95).
Revisiting the Plaintiff's disability status on May 15,
2014, the SSA found the Plaintiff's disability had ceased
in May 2014. (Doc. 14, p. 96). This decision was confirmed
upon reconsideration. (Doc. 14, p. 98). At the
Plaintiff's request, an administrative hearing took place
on June 23, 2015. (Doc. 14, pp. 63-92). The ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision (Doc. 14, pp. 46-61), and the Appeals
Council declined to review the ALJ's decision (Doc. 14,
pp. 1-4). Thereafter, the Plaintiff filed a complaint in this
Court. (Doc. 1). The matter was referred to the Magistrate
Judge pursuant to Rule 72 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and (B). (Doc.
5). The Plaintiff moved for judgment on the administrative
record (Doc. 16), to which the Defendant responded (Doc. 17),
and the Plaintiff replied (Doc. 18). The matter is ripe for
THE ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
Plaintiff was most recently adjudicated disabled on June 14,
2010, that date was deemed the comparison point decision
(“CPD”). (Doc. 14, p. 51). Up through May 1,
2014, the Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity. (Doc. 14, p. 51). While the Plaintiff suffered from
listed impairments at the time of the CPD, the ALJ concluded
that the Plaintiff no longer suffered from a listed
impairment. (Doc. 14, p. 51). As a result, the ALJ opined
that medical improvement related to the Plaintiff's
ability to work had occurred. (Doc. 14, p. 51). Though the
Plaintiff's impairments had medically improved, they were
still severe. (Doc. 14, p. 52). The Plaintiff had no past
relevant work to consider. (Doc. 14, p. 55). Finding that the
Plaintiff only suffered from non-exertional limitations, was
a younger individual, and had a limited education, the ALJ
concluded that the Plaintiff could perform a significant
number of jobs in the national economy. (Doc. 14, pp. 54-55).
Based on this finding, the ALJ concluded that the
Plaintiff's disability ended as of May 1, 2014. (Doc. 14,
STANDARD OF REVIEW
review of the Commissioner's disability decision, this
Court considers two questions: (1) whether the
Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial
evidence and (2) whether the proper legal criteria were
applied to the Commissioner's decision. Miller v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 811 F.3d 825, 833 (6th Cir.
2016) (quoting Blakley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
581 F.3d 399, 405 (6th Cir. 2009)). Even where a decision is
supported by substantial evidence, it may not be upheld if
the Commissioner's procedural violations materially
prejudiced a claimant or deprived the claimant of a
substantial right. Brantley v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 637 F. App'x 888, 894 (6th Cir. 2016) (quoting
Rabbers v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 582 F.3d
647, 651 (6th Cir. 2009)).
INITIAL REVIEW FRAMEWORK
initial review of an application for disability benefits, the
Commissioner engages in a five-step evaluation. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a). First, if the claimant
is engaged in substantial gainful activity, he is not
disabled. Id. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i),
416.920(a)(4)(i). Second, the claimant is not disabled if he
does not have a severe medically determinable impairment that
meets duration requirements. Id. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). Third, the claimant is
presumed disabled if he suffers from a listed impairment, or
its equivalent, for the proper duration. Id.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii). Fourth,
the claimant is not disabled if based on his residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) he can perform past
relevant work. Id. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv),
416.920(a)(4)(iv). Fifth, if the claimant can adjust to other
work based on his RFC, age, education, and work experience,
he is not disabled. Id. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v). ...