United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
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 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. 14), to which Defendant has
responded (Docket Entry No. 20). Plaintiff has also filed a
subsequent reply to Defendant's response (Docket Entry
No. 22). This action is before the undersigned for all
further proceedings pursuant to the consent of the parties
and the District Judge in accordance with 28 U.S.C. §
636(c) (Docket Entry No. 23).
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 DIB and SSI on October 8, 2009.
See Transcript of the Administrative Record (Docket
Entry No. 10) at 81-82. She alleged a disability onset date of
June 15, 2009. AR 81-82. Plaintiff alleged that she was
unable to work because of arthritis, back problems, a history
of surgery on her neck and lower back, depression, and a
suicide attempt. AR 99-100.
applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration.
AR 81-84. Upon her request for a hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”), Plaintiff
appeared with counsel and testified at a hearing before ALJ
Scott C. Shimer on November 21, 2011. AR 37. On January 20,
2012, the ALJ denied the claim. AR 14-16. On April 8, 2013,
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review
of the ALJ's decision (AR 1-3), 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 January 20, 2012. AR 14-16.
Based upon the record, the ALJ made the following enumerated
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2014.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since June 15, 2009, the alleged onset date (20 CFR
404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
cervical degenerative disc disease with fusion and major
depressive disorder (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
Administrative Law Judge finds that the claimant has the
residual functional capacity to perform a limited range of
light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b);
except that she can occasionally reach overhead with the
bilateral upper extremities; occasionally able to balance,
bend, stoop, crouch, crawl and climb ramps and stairs; but
never able to climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds.
Additionally, the claimant is able to have occasional contact
with the public.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was 49 years old on the alleged onset date,
defined as a younger individual. The claimant is currently 52
years old, defined as closely approaching advanced age. (20
CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).
8. The claimant has a high school education with one year of
college, and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR
404.1564 and 416.964).
9. 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 transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41
and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 404.1569, 404.1569(a),
416.969, and 416.969(a)).
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from June 15, 2009, through the
date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).
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 ...