United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
W. PHILLIPS SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Social Security appeal is before the Court for consideration
of the plaintiff's objections [Doc. 21] to the Report and
Recommendation (“R&R) filed by United States
Magistrate Judge C. Clifford Shirley, Jr. [Doc. 20]. The
Commissioner has responded to plaintiff's objections
[Doc. 22]. Magistrate Judge Shirley found that substantial
evidence supported the findings of the Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) denying plaintiff's application
for disability insurance benefits under the Social Security
Act (the “Act”). Thus, Magistrate Judge Shirley
recommended that the plaintiff's motion for judgment on
the pleadings [Doc. 15] be denied and the Commissioner's
motion for summary judgment [Doc. 17] be granted.
March 27, 2012, plaintiff applied for disability insurance
benefits with an alleged onset date of January 1, 2006 [R. at
109], but later amended her alleged onset date to December
31, 2011, the same date as her date last insured [R. 29].
Plaintiff claimed she was disabled due to degenerative disc
disease of the cervical spine, cervicalgia/headaches,
obesity, and possible arthritis of hands [R. at 15].
Plaintiff's claims were denied initially and on
reconsideration [R. at 55-56]. Following a hearing, ALJ Carey
Jobe issued an April 25, 2014 decision that plaintiff was not
disabled as defined in the Act [R. at 13-20]. The Appeals
Council denied the plaintiff's request for review [R. at
5-7], and plaintiff sought judicial review of the
Commissioner's decision in this Court.
Standard of Review
Court's review of Magistrate Judge Shirley's Report
and Recommendation is de novo. 28 U.S.C. §
636(b). This review, however, is limited to “a
determination of whether substantial evidence exists in the
record to support the [Commissioner's] decision and to a
review for any legal errors.” Landsaw v. Sec'y
of Health & Human Servs., 803 F.2d 211, 213 (6th
Cir. 1986). Title II of the Social Security Act provides that
“[t]he findings of the Commissioner of Social Security
as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall
be conclusive.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Accordingly,
the reviewing court will uphold the ALJ's decision if it
is supported by substantial evidence. Garner v.
Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984). Substantial
evidence has been defined as “‘such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.'” Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consol.
Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). It is
“more than a mere scintilla of evidence, but less than
a preponderance.” Bell v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 105 F.3d 244, 245 (6th Cir. 1996) (citing
Consol. Edison, 305 U.S. at 229).
substantial evidence supports the Secretary's
determination, it is conclusive, even if substantial evidence
also supports the opposite conclusion.” Crum v.
Sullivan, 921 F.2d 642, 644 (6th Cir. 1990) (citing
Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir.1986)
(en banc)). This standard of review is consistent with the
well-settled rule that the reviewing court in a disability
hearing appeal is not to weigh the evidence or make
credibility determinations, because these factual
determinations are left to the ALJ and to the Commissioner.
Hogg v. Sullivan, 987 F.2d 328, 331 (6th Cir. 1993);
Besaw v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 966
F.2d 1028, 1030 (6th Cir. 1992). Thus, even if the Court
would have come to different factual conclusions as to the
plaintiff's claim on the merits than those of the ALJ,
the Commissioner's findings must be affirmed if they are
supported by substantial evidence. Hogg, 987 F.2d at
Plaintiff claims that the R&R's discussion of the
relevant time period is “misleading.”
argues “the R&R's discussion of the relevant
time period for the disability determination is
misleading” because the R&R recites the
Commissioner's argument that the relevant period is only
one day [Doc. 21 at p. 2]. It is undisputed that the date
last insured (“DLI”) and the alleged onset date
are the same, December 31, 2011, as stated in the ALJ
decision [R. at 15]. Plaintiff contends that, as long as the
DLI does not precede the onset date, the DLI should not
affect the ALJ's analysis of the claimant's
disability [Doc. 21 at p. 2]. Plaintiff argues that the
general issue is whether a medically determinable impairment
prevented her from working for a period of not less than 12
months and the relevant period includes all of 2012
response, the government correctly notes that, before
considering whether the 12-month durational requirement has
been met, the plaintiff must first show that she was disabled
on or before her date last insured [Doc. 22 at pp. 1-2].
Social Security Ruling (“SSR”) 83-20, relied on
by plaintiff, states that “[a] Title II worker cannot
be found disabled under the Act unless insured status is also
met at a time when the evidence establishes the presence of a
disabling condition(s).” SSR 83-20, 1983 WL 31249, at
*1 (1983). In other words, the plaintiff must be able to show
that she was disabled on December 31, 2011, even if her
condition continued beyond that date. See Moon v.
Sullivan, 923 F.2d 1175, 1182 (6th Cir. 1990) (“In
order to establish entitlement to disability insurance
benefits, an individual must establish that he became
‘disabled' prior to the expiration of his insured
status”); Redding v. Shalala, No. 94-3471,
1995 WL 299027, at *3 (6th Cir. May 16, 1995) (“To
establish entitlement to benefits, a claimant must show that
he not only had an impairment prior to the expiration of his
insured status but that he actually became disabled prior to
Court does not find the R&R to be misleading on this
point and notes that both the R&R and the ALJ reviewed
plaintiff's medical records prior to and subsequent to
December 31, 2011. The ALJ and the R&R both correctly
concluded that plaintiff failed to establish that she was
disabled on December 31, 2011 and this conclusion is
supported by substantial evidence in the record. Thus, even
though plaintiff continued to have migraines after December
31, 2011, she has failed to carry her burden of proving her
disability from the relevant time period. See Strong v.
Soc. Sec. Admin., 88 F.App'x 841, 845 (6th Cir.
2004) (“Evidence of disability obtained after the
expiration of insured status is generally of little probative
value”). To the extent that plaintiff's
“clarification” is an objection to the R&R,
it is OVERRULED.
Plaintiff objects that the ALJ did not include the
limitations caused by the treatment for migraines in the
plaintiff's application and the ALJ decision note that
plaintiff suffers from several severe impairments, her appeal
and her objections solely focus on her migraine headaches.
The record reflects that plaintiff complained of migraine
headaches as early as 2002 [R. at 257] and continued past
December 31, 2011 [R. at 302, 306, 309]. Plaintiff reported
on at least two occasions to treating her headaches with
Excedrin Migraine, Aleve, cold compresses, and rest [R. at
309, 391]. Plaintiff contends that this treatment would
require “stopping work” and such unscheduled
breaks would interfere with her ability to remain employed
[Doc. 21 at pp. 4-5]. Plaintiff argues that the RFC
(“Residual Functional Capacity”) should reflect
that limitation, but it does not. Thus, plaintiff argues that
the ALJ did not comply with SSR 96-8, which states that
“[t]he RFC must be based on all of the
relevant evidence in the ...