United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division
JOHN H. HAWKINS, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
ORDER AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER'S DECISION
D. TODD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
action was filed by the Plaintiff, John H. Hawkins, to obtain
judicial review of the Defendant Commissioner's final
decision denying his applications for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§ 401 et seq., and for Supplemental Security
Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act, 42
U.S.C. § 1381 et seq. Plaintiff's
applications for benefits were denied initially and upon
reconsideration by the Social Security Administration. At the
Plaintiff's request, a hearing was held before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (R. 307-329.)
On April 3, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding that
Plaintiff was not disabled. (R. 9-21.) The Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review on November 29,
2012. (R. 5-7). Thus, the ALJ's decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner.
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 he or she was a party. The reviewing court
may “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. Judicial review is limited to determining
whether or not there is substantial evidence in the record as
a whole to support the Commissioner's decision, and
whether the correct legal standards were applied.
See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); see also Kyle v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 609 F.3d 847, 854 (6th Cir.
2010); Lindsley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 560 F.3d
601, 604-08 (6th Cir. 2009).
evidence is evidence that a reasonable mind would accept as
adequate to support a conclusion. Perales, 402 U.S.
at 401; Kyle, 609 F.3d at 854; Lindsley,
560 F.3d at 604-05. The Commissioner, not the reviewing
court, is charged with the duty to weigh the evidence, to
make credibility determinations, and to resolve material
conflicts in the testimony. See Bass v. McMahon, 499
F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007). In addition, if the decision
is supported by substantial evidence, it should not be
reversed even if substantial evidence also supports the
opposite conclusion. See Foster v. Halter, 279 F.3d
348, 353 (6th Cir. 2001); Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d
535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986).
was born on November 19, 1957, and was fifty-four years old
at the time of the ALJ's decision. (R. 21, 70, 310.) He
has a high school education. (R. 20, 310.) Plaintiff has past
relevant work as a security guard. (R. 20, 76-77.) He alleges
that he became disabled on November 30, 2003, due to mental
problems, bipolar disorder, paranoid schizophrenia and pain
in his back, legs and feet. (R. 42, 75, 90.)
found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements
through November 3, 2003, and had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since the alleged onset date. (R. 14.) The
ALJ also found that Plaintiff's degenerative joint
disease of the knees, history of treatment for depression and
history of alcohol dependence were severe impairments but
that his impairments did not, either alone or in combination,
meet or equal the severity of any listed impairment contained
in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 of the listing
of impairments. (R. 14-15.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff
had the residual functional capacity to lift a maximum of
twenty-five pounds frequently and fifty pounds occasionally;
the ability to understand, remember and carry out only simple
job instructions; and should have no significant interaction
with the general public. (R. 15-20.) The ALJ further found
that Plaintiff was unable to perform his past relevant work
as a security guard. (R. 20.) Using the Medical-Vocational
Rules (“the grids”), Rule 203.22 supported a
finding that Plaintiff was not disabled; therefore,
considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience,
and residual functional capacity, the ALJ determined there
are unskilled jobs that exist in significant numbers in the
national economy that Plaintiff can perform. (R. 20-21.)
Accordingly, Plaintiff was not under a disability as defined
in the Act at any time through the date of the April 3, 2012
decision. (R. 21.)
Social Security Act defines disability as the inability to
engage in substantial gainful activity. 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1). The initial burden of going forward is on the
claimant to show that he is disabled from engaging in her
former employment; the burden then shifts to the Commissioner
to demonstrate the existence of available employment
compatible with the claimant's disability and background.
Id.; see also Felisky v. Bowen, 35 F.3d
1027, 1035 (6th Cir. 1994). The claimant bears the ultimate
burden of establishing an entitlement to benefits. Cotton
v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 692, 695 (6th Cir. 1993).
determining disability, the Commissioner conducts a five-step
sequential analysis, as set forth in the applicable
1. An individual who is engaging in substantial gainful
activity will not be found to be disabled regardless of
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
found in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
4. An individual who can perform work that he has done in the
past will not be found to be disabled.
5. If an individual cannot perform his past relevant work,
other factors including age, education, past work experience,
and residual functional capacity will be considered to
determine if other work can be performed.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). Further
analysis is unnecessary if it is determined that an
individual is not disabled at any point in this sequential
evaluation process. Id.; see also Howard
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 276 F.3d 235, 238 (6th
Cir. 2002). Here, the analysis proceeded to step five, where
the ALJ determined that, although Plaintiff cannot perform
his past relevant work, there are jobs existing in
significant numbers in the national economy that he can
does not contest the ALJ's findings with regard to his
physical impairments. However, he contends the ALJ erred in
failing to find that his mental impairments met Listing 12.04
(Affective Disorders), and/or Listing 12.08 (Personality
Disorders). The burden of proof at the listing level of the
sequential evaluation process is on the claimant. In order
for a claimant to show that his impairment matches a listing,
the impairment must meet specified medical criteria. See
Zebley v. Sullivan, 493 U.S. 521, 530 (1990). The
paragraph A criteria of the Listing for Mental Disorders are
used to establish the existence of a mental ...