United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division
RHONDA L. LEE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ORDER AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE
DANIEL BREEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
the Court is the Social Security action of the Plaintiff,
Rhonda L. Lee, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking
judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security denying her claim for disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”). She applied for DIB on December
1, 2008, alleging disability as of November 8, 2007. The
claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration.
Following a hearing conducted on June 16, 2010,
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Jerry M. Lang
denied her claim in an opinion issued October 13, 2010.
Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision
was denied by the Appeals Council on June 8, 2012, and this
action was commenced shortly thereafter.
hearing before the ALJ, Lee testified that she had a high
school education and past work as a nurse's assistant,
casting factory worker, and sewing factory employee.
Plaintiff told the ALJ that, on November 8, 2007, while
employed as a nurse's assistant in a nursing facility,
she was helping a patient get into bed when she fell and
injured her back. She reported constant pain, as well as
depression, anxiety, lack of concentration, and poor memory
and focus. Her pain was alleviated to some extent by
medications but it nonetheless affected her concentration and
memory, and required that she lie down several times during
the day with a pillow between her legs. The claimant also
took medications for depression and anxiety.
testified that she could lift and carry no more than five
pounds, stand for no more than thirty minutes at a time, sit
for about twenty minutes, walk less than a quarter block, and
rated her pain as a six out of ten. According to the
claimant, she would start basic housework and have to lie
down and rest before completing the task. Plaintiff stated
that she could not drive, “stand over and watch”
a meal, bathe in a bathtub, or go outside. She advised the
ALJ that, on an average day, when she felt like getting out
of bed, she would take her medicine and return to bed until
the pain began to subside. Then she would get up again and
move to the couch, prop up her feet, and put a frozen dinner
in the microwave if she was hungry. She stayed in a prone
position most of the day because it hurt to sit up.
hearing testimony and reviewing the evidence, the ALJ made
the following findings:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2012.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since November 8, 2007, the alleged onset date (20
CFR 404.1571 et seq).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease and affective mood disorder (20 CFR
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed
impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR
404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity [(“RFC”)] to perform
sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR
404.1567(a). The claimant also has the following
nonexertional limitations: work that does not require the
ability to understand, remember, or carry out detailed or
complex job instructions, or that requires more than two
hours of sustained concentration without a break.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 CFR 404.1565).
7. The claimant was born on October 24, 1966 and was 41 years
old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44, on
the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563).
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564).
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 and
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from November 8, 2007, through
the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g)).
Record (“AR”) 16-22.)
STATEMENT OF ERRORS
claimant raises three challenges to the ALJ's unfavorable
1. ALJ Lang erred as a matter of law in not finding that Ms.
Lee's Affective and Anxiety Disorders meet and/or are
medically equivalent to Listing(s) 12.04 and/or 12.06[;]
2. ALJ Lang erred as a matter of law in not according
adequate weight to the medical opinions and findings of Ms.
Lee's treating providers, and instead finding that Ms.
Lee can perform a full range of unskilled sedentary work
3. The Commissioner erred as a matter of law in failing to
sustain his burden of establishing that there is other work
in the national economy Ms. Lee can perform.
Entry (“D.E.”) 9 at PageID 546.)
federal court's review of the Social Security
Administration's denial of a claim for benefits “is
limited to determining whether it is supported by substantial
evidence and was made pursuant to proper legal
standards.” Gentry v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
741 F.3d 708, 722 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting Rogers v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir.
2007)). “Substantial evidence requires more than a mere
scintilla but less than a preponderance; substantial evidence
is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept
as adequate to support a conclusion.” Miller v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 811 F.3d 825, 833 (6th Cir.
2016) (internal quotation marks omitted). “This
standard presupposes that there is a zone of choice within
which the decisionmakers can go either way, without
interference by the courts.” Sorrell v. Comm'r
of Soc. Sec., 656 F. App'x 162, 168 (6th Cir. 2016)
(quoting Blakley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 581
F.3d 399, 406 (6th Cir. 2009)) (internal quotation marks
omitted). “If substantial evidence supports the
ALJ's decision, then reversal is unwarranted even if
substantial evidence backs the opposite conclusion.”
Turk v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 647 F. App'x
638, 639 (6th Cir. 2016) (citing Bass v. McMahon,
499 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007)). Stated differently,
“[u]pon a finding that there is ...