United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
K. LEE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Donna Rinker (“Plaintiff”) brought this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review
of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner” or “Defendant”)
denying her disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”). Each party has moved for judgment [Docs.
17 & 21] with supporting briefs [Docs. 18 & 22]. This
matter is now ripe. For the reasons stated below,
Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the administrative
record [Doc. 17] shall be GRANTED IN PART to
the extent it seeks remand to the Commissioner and
DENIED IN PART to the extent it seeks an
award of benefits; (2) the Commissioner's motion for
summary judgment [Doc. 21] shall be DENIED;
and (3) the decision of the Commissioner shall be
REVERSED and REMANDED
pursuant to Sentence Four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
filed her application for DIB on July 10, 2013, alleging
disability beginning March 6, 2013 [Doc. 10
(“Tr.”) 20, 138]. Plaintiff's claim was
denied initially and upon reconsideration at the agency level
(Tr. 20, 65, 78). The administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) held a hearing on July 1, 2015, during
which Plaintiff was represented by a non-attorney
representative/social security consultant (Tr. 14, 38-53).
The ALJ found on August 14, 2015, that Plaintiff was not
under a disability as defined in the Social Security Act
(“Act”) (Tr. 20-33). On July 16, 2016, the
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review,
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner (Tr. 1-3). Plaintiff timely filed the instant
Education and Employment Background
was born in 1963 (Tr. 31). She completed high school and is
able to communicate in English (Tr. 31). Plaintiff's past
relevant work history includes working as a long-time
administrative assistant (Tr. 31).
Disability Report, Plaintiff alleged disability due to
bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety (Tr. 195). The
administrative record contains extensive medical records, but
only the portions of Plaintiff's medical records relevant
to the parties' arguments will be addressed within the
respective sections of the analysis below. All relevant
records have been reviewed.
transcript of the testimony at the hearing has been carefully
reviewed. Both Plaintiff and Rodney Caldwell, Ph.D., a
vocational expert, testified (Tr. 38-53). While it is not
necessary to summarize the testimony herein, the testimony
will be addressed as appropriate within the respective
sections of the analysis below.
ELIGIBILITY AND THE ALJ'S FINDINGS
Social Security Act defines a disability as the
‘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.'”
Schmiedebusch v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 536 F.
App'x 637, 646 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A)); see also Parks v. Soc. Sec. Admin.,
413 F. App'x 856, 862 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(A)). A claimant is disabled “only if
his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such
severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work,
but cannot, considering his age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy.”
Parks, 413 F. App'x at 862 (quoting 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(2)(A)). The Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) determines eligibility for disability
benefits by following a five-step process. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i-v). The five-step process provides:
1) If the claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, the
claimant is not disabled.
2) If the claimant does not have a severe medically
determinable physical or mental impairment-i.e., an
impairment that significantly limits his or her physical or
mental ability to do basic work activities-the claimant is
3) If the claimant has a severe impairment(s) that meets or
equals one of the listings in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the
regulations and meets the duration requirement, the claimant
4) If the claimant's impairment does not prevent him or
her from doing his or her past relevant work, the ...