United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville Division
DEBRA A. MORIN, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Clifton L. Corker United States Magistrate Judge.
matter is before the United States Magistrate Judge, with the
consent of the parties and an order of reference under 28
U.S.C. § 636 [Doc. 13], for decision and entry of
judgment. Plaintiff's application for disability
insurance benefits was administratively denied following a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
[“ALJ”]. Plaintiff has filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment [Doc. 14], while the defendant Commissioner has
filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 18].
Standard of Review
sole function of this Court in making this review is to
determine whether the findings of the Commissioner are
supported by substantial evidence in the record.
McCormick v. Secretary of Health and Human Services,
861 F.2d 998, 1001 (6th Cir. 1988). “Substantial
evidence” is defined as evidence that a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support the challenged
conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389
(1971). It must be enough to justify, if the trial were to a
jury, a refusal to direct a verdict when the conclusion
sought to be drawn is one of fact for the jury. Consolo
v. Federal Maritime Commission, 383 U.S. 607 (1966). The
Court may not try the case de novo nor resolve
conflicts in the evidence, nor decide questions of
credibility. Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387
(6th Cir. 1984). Even if the reviewing court were to resolve
the factual issues differently, the Commissioner's
decision must stand if supported by substantial evidence.
Liestenbee v. Secretary of Health and Human
Services, 846 F.2d 345, 349 (6th Cir. 1988). Yet, even
if supported by substantial evidence, “a decision of
the Commissioner will not be upheld where the SSA fails to
follow its own regulations and where that error prejudices a
claimant on the merits or deprives the claimant of a
substantial right.” Bowen v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 478 F.3d 742, 746 (6th Cir. 2007).
earnings records show that she has acquired sufficient
quarters of coverage to remain insured through September 30,
2015. Thus, she must establish disability on or before that
date in order to be entitled to a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits. At all applicable times,
Plaintiff was “closely approaching retirement
age” with a high school education. She has past
relevant work as a bookkeeper, caretaker, and assisted-living
applicable administrative regulations require the
Commissioner to utilize a five-step sequential evaluation
process for disability determinations. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4). Although a dispositive finding at any step
ends the ALJ's review, see Colvin v. Barnhart,
475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007), the complete sequential
review poses five questions:
1. Is the claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity?
2. Does the claimant suffer from one or more severe
3. Do the claimant's severe impairments, alone or in
combination, meet or equal the criteria of an impairment set
forth in the Commissioner's Listing of Impairments (the
“Listings”), 20 C.F.R. Subpart P, Appendix 1?
4. Considering the claimant's RFC, can he or she perform
his or her past relevant work?
5. Assuming the claimant can no longer perform his or her
past relevant work -- and also considering the claimant's
age, education, past work experience, and RFC -- do
significant numbers of other jobs exist in the national
economy which the claimant can perform?
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). A claimant bears the
ultimate burden of establishing disability under the Social
Security Act's definition. Key v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 109 F.3d 270, 274 (6th Cir. 1997). However,
“[t]he burden shifts to the Commissioner at [the] fifth
step to establish the claimant's ability to do other
work.” Foster v. Halter, 279 F.3d 348, 354
(6th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted). The ALJ in this case
found Plaintiff had no medically determinable impairments.
(Tr. 14-17). Accordingly, the ALJ found that she was not
disabled at step two of the sequential evaluation process.
Notably, Plaintiff is only challenging the ALJ's findings
related to her alleged mental impairments.