United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
DONNA E. BELL, Plaintiff,
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Donna Bell's Motion for Judgment on
the Administrative Record (Doc. No. 14). For the reasons
stated herein, Bell's Motion is DENIED.
a civil action for judicial review of the Social Security
Administration's (“SSA”) denial of benefits
to Donna Bell on April 17, 2013. Bell filed an application
for supplemental security income on December 21, 2010,
alleging disability beginning on January 1, 2010. The claim
was denied by the SSA on May 20, 2011, and upon
reconsideration on October 27, 2011. Bell filed a request for
a hearing, and an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) heard Bell's case on March 15, 2013.
The ALJ determined that Bell was not disabled under the
Social Security Act. (Doc. No. 10 at 15.)
heard testimony from Bell and from Cindy Harris, a vocational
expert. Bell testified that she had a 12th grade
education, was 52 years old, was about 5' 9" tall,
weighed 283 pounds, did not smoke, and had no issues with
abusing alcohol or drugs. (A.R. 36-37.) She stated that she
had not worked since January of 2010. (A.R. 37.) She
testified that she supports herself with her child's and
her grandchild's disability payments plus food stamps and
child support. (Id.) She also stated that the money
she received in 2009 and 2010 was for “helping people
get their disability.” (A.R. 37, 44.)
testified that she had diabetes, took medicine for that
condition, and checked her blood sugar. (A.R. 46.) She stated
that the symptoms from her diabetes included losing a toe,
having surgery on the other foot, tingling in her foot, and
not being able to sit for a long time without moving around.
(Id.) She further testified that she lost her
balance when walking and now uses a cane. (A.R. 51.) Bell
stated that she had breathing problems and used a breathing
machine when needed. (A.R. 51-52.)
told the ALJ that she could stand only about 15 or 20 minutes
at a time. (A.R. 53.) She needs to have help (a cane) to
walk, and she can sit only about 15 to 20 minutes at a time.
(Id.) She also testified that she lives with her
five children and her grandson, and they help her bathe,
cook, and clean. (A.R. 54.) She has tumors in her eyes, she
cannot see a far distance, and bright lights and the sun hurt
her eyes. (A.R. 55.) Bell takes medication for anxiety and
depression. (A.R. 55-56.)
vocational expert, Cindy Harris, testified that, although
there was no exact match in the Directory of Occupational
Titles (“DOT”), she believed “case
aide” probably came the closest to describing
Bell's prior work. (A.R. 57.) The ALJ posed a
hypothetical question to Harris as follows:
I want you to consider an individual between ages 48 and 52
years old. . . . Has got a[t] least high school education and
past relevant work in the job you just described which is
light, semi-skilled. For the first hypothetical, I want you
to consider that the individual can perform exertional
activities at a full range of light, postural activities on
an occasional basis with no ladders, no duties that require
balancing or crawling. So the individual can have - - should
avoid concentrated exposure to extreme temperatures, fumes,
dust, gas inhalants, and all hazards. Also consider that the
individual should have no duties that require the individual
to walk on uneven surfaces. Consider from a mental standpoint
that the individual can understand, remember, and carry out a
full range of detailed tasks and instructions and can have
frequent interaction with the public, coworkers, and
supervisors. Is that past relevant work going to be
testified that past relevant work would be available to such
an individual and there also would be other jobs in the
regional or national economy that would be available as well
-- e.g., cashier, information clerk, interviewer. (A.R. 59.)
the ALJ added the limitations of standing and walking only 15
to 20 minutes at a time and less than two hours per day, with
the aid of a cane, and lifting only from a seated position,
Harris testified that the jobs she had identified would not
be available. (A.R. 59-60.) She stated, however, that there
would be a reduced number of “light” positions with
these limitations -- jobs classified as light, but performed
from a seated position. (A.R. 60-61.)
the ALJ added the limitation of recurring absences of at
least two to three days per month, Harris testified that such
an individual would not be able to sustain employment. (A.R.
THE FIVE-STEP INQUIRY
claimant bears the ultimate burden of establishing an
entitlement to benefits by proving his or 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. §
423(d)(1)(A). The claimant's physical or mental
impairment must result from anatomical, physiological, or
psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by
medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic
techniques. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(3).
determining disability, the SSA and the ALJ consider a
five-step sequential evaluation process. The Sixth Circuit
has described these five steps as:
(1) A claimant who is engaging in substantial gainful
activity will not be found to be disabled regardless of
(2) A claimant 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 a claimant is not
working and is suffering from a severe impairment which meets
the duration requirement and which meets or equals a listed
impairment in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the Regulations.
Claimants with lesser impairments proceed to step four.
(4) A claimant who can perform work that he has done in the
past will not be found to be disabled.
(5) If a claimant cannot perform his past work, other factors
including age, education, past work experience, and residual
functional capacity must be considered to determine if other
work can be performed.
Cruse v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 502 F.3d 532, 539
(6th Cir. 2007).
in this case made the following findings:
1. Bell has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since
December 21, 2010, ...