United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Northeastern Division
ANGIE L. SMITH
NANCY A. BERRYHILLActing Commissioner of Social Security
BARBARA D. HOLMES, United States Magistrate Judge
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 Plaintiff's claim
for a period of disability, Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”), and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”), as provided under Titles II and XVI 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. 17), to which
Defendant has responded (Docket Entry No. 19). This action is
before the undersigned for all further proceedings pursuant
to the consent of the parties and referral of the District
Judge in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) (Docket
Entry No. 22).
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
filed applications for a period of disability, DIB, and SSI
on May 13, 2010. See Transcript of the
Administrative Record (Docket Entry No. 11) at
94-95. She alleged a disability onset date of
June 17, 2005. AR 94- 95. Plaintiff asserted that she was
unable to work because of back problems, hip problems, a
right wrist injury, and depression. AR 105.
applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration.
AR 94-97. Pursuant to her request for a hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”), Plaintiff
appeared with counsel and testified at a hearing before ALJ
Frank Letchworth on September 1, 2011. AR 38. On September
30, 2011, the ALJ denied the claim. AR 19-21. On May 16,
2013, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review of the ALJ's decision (AR 1-4), 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).
THE ALJ FINDINGS
issued an unfavorable decision on September 30, 2011. AR
19-21. Based upon the record, the ALJ made the following
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2010.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since November 26, 2008, the alleged onset date (20
CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
disorder of lower back (discogenic and degenerative);
positive test for Hepatitis C virus; depressive disorder, not
otherwise specified; and anxiety disorder, not otherwise
specified (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
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 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526,
416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform a range of light exertion. She
can occasionally climb ramps or stairs, or balance, kneel,
crouch, or perform fine manipulation. She can further
occasionally stoop. She cannot climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds. She can have only occasional and casual
interaction with the general public.
6. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work
as a security guard, machine operator, or cashier. This work
does not require the performance of work-related activities
precluded by the claimant's residual functional capacity
(20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from November 26, 2008, through
the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(f) and
REVIEW OF THE RECORD
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'
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
Standard of Review
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.
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
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 support the ALJ's determination.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See, e.g., Houston v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 736 F.2d 365,
366 (6th Cir. 1984).
Determining Disability at the Administrative Level
claimant has the ultimate burden of establishing an
entitlement to benefits by proving her “inability to
engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any
medically determinable physical or mental impairment which
can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can
be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 432(d)(1)(A). The asserted
impairment(s) must be demonstrated by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. See
42 U.S.C. §§ 432(d)(3) and 1382c(a)(3)(D); 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1512(a), (c), and 404.1513(d).
“Substantial gainful activity” not only includes
previous work performed by the claimant, but also,
considering the claimant's age, education, and work
experience, any other relevant work that exists in the
national economy in ...