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Brown v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

February 16, 2017

BRENDA BROWN, Plaintiff,



         Lisa Lynn Haywood (“Haywood”) filed this action to obtain judicial review of her application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act (“Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434 and supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1385. By consent of the parties, this case has been referred to the United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all proceedings and order the entry of a final judgment in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Rule 73 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         Haywood filed her application on September 28, 2009. Her claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. A hearing was held on July 13, 2012 before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). On March 2, 2012, the ALJ found that Haywood was not disabled under the Act. The Appeals Council then denied Haywood's request for review. Thus, the ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision. Haywood then filed this action requesting reversal of the Commissioner's decision.

         On January 15, 2014, a Suggestion of Death was filed with this Court stating that Haywood died on December 19, 2013, that she was survived by two minor children, and that, in accordance with 20 C.F.R. § 416.542(b), this claim may not be extinguished. On March 5, 2014, the District Court granted Plaintiff's motion to substitute Brenda Brown as the Plaintiff.

         For the reasons set forth herein, the decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED, and the action is REMANDED pursuant to Sentence Four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for a reevaluation of Dr. Cran-Carty and Dr. Smithson's medical source opinions and for consideration of the new and material evidence contained in Exhibit 23F.

         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a claimant may obtain judicial review of any final decision made by the Commissioner after a hearing to which she was a party. “The court shall have the power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing.” Id. The court's review is limited to determining whether or not there is substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Wyatt v. Secretary of Health & Human Services, 974 F.2d 680, 683 (6th Cir.1992); Cohen v. Secretary of Health & Human Services., 964 F.2d 524, 528 (6th Cir.1992), and whether the correct legal standards were applied, Landsaw v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 803 F.2d 211, 213 (6th Cir.1986).

         The Commissioner, not the court, is charged with the duty to weigh the evidence, to make credibility determinations and resolve material conflicts in the testimony, and to decide the case accordingly. See Crum v. Sullivan, 921 F.2d 642, 644 (6th Cir. 1990); Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984). When substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's determination, it is conclusive, even if substantial evidence also supports the opposite conclusion. Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986).

         Plaintiff was born on January 29, 1967 and was forty-one-years old on the alleged disability onset date of January 18, 2009. (R. at 14, 23). She has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English. (R. at 23). She has past relevant work as a licensed practical nurse, a fast food worker, a food service worker, and a home attendant. (R. at 23).

         The ALJ determined as follows: (1) the claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2013; (2) the claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 18, 2009, which is the alleged onset date; (3) the claimant has the following severe impairments: seizure disorder; cerebrovascular accident; hypertension; degenerative disc disease; tears of the distal supraspinatus tendon in the bilateral shoulders; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (“COPD”); and, anxiety; (4) the claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1; (5) after careful consideration of the entire record, the claimant is found to have the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to lift and carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; can sit, stand, or walk for six hours in an eight hour workday with normal breaks; can occasionally push or pull with the bilateral upper extremities; no overhead reaching with the right upper extremity; occasional overhead reaching with the left upper extremity; occasional climbing of ramps or stairs and no climbing of ladders/ropes/scaffolds; occasional balancing or crawling; no work in a setting which requires driving motorized vehicles; no work around unprotected heights and moving machinery; no work around pulmonary irritants and temperature extremes; ability to understand, remember, and carry out one, two and three step instructions; can maintain concentration and attention for at least two hour periods of time; can interact appropriately with coworkers and supervisors, but only occasional interaction with the public; and, can tolerate no more than occasional changes in the work environment or duties; (6) the claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work; (7) transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or not the claimant has transferrable job skills; (8) considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and RFC, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform; and, (9) the claimant has not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from January 18, 2009 through the date of the ALJ's decision. (R. at 16-25).

         The Act defines disability as the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1). The claimant bears the ultimate burden of establishing an entitlement to benefits. Born v. Secretary of Health & Human Services., 923 F.2d 1168, 1174 (6th Cir.1990). The initial burden of going forward is on the claimant to show that she is disabled from engaging in her former employment; the burden of going forward then shifts to the Commissioner to demonstrate the existence of available employment compatible with the claimant's disability and background. Id.

         The Commissioner conducts the following, five-step analysis to determine if an individual is disabled within the meaning of the Act:

1. An individual who is engaging in substantial gainful activity will not be found to be disabled regardless of medical findings.
2. An individual who does not have a severe impairment will not be found to be disabled.
3. A finding of disability will be made without consideration of vocational factors, if an individual is not working and is suffering from a severe impairment which meets the duration requirement and which meets or equals a listed impairment in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the regulations.[1]
4. An individual who can perform work that he or she has done in the past will not be found to be disabled.
5. If an individual cannot perform his or her past work, other factors including age, education, past work experience and RFC must be considered to ...

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