United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
KIMBERLY B. WILSON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b), Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
and the consent of the parties [Doc. 16]. Now before the
Court is the Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 17 & 18] and
the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and
Memorandum in Support [Docs. 19 & 20]. Kimberly B. Wilson
(“the Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the
decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“the
ALJ”), the final decision of the Defendant Nancy A.
Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“the
Commissioner”). For the reasons that follow, the Court
will GRANT IN PART the Plaintiff's motion, and DENY the
August 29, 2011, the Plaintiff filed an application for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”), claiming a
period of disability which began January 12, 2010. [Tr.
188-90, 216]. After her application was denied initially and
upon reconsideration, the Plaintiff requested a hearing. [Tr.
136]. A hearing was held before the ALJ on January 10, 2013
[Tr. 3752], and on April 18, 2013, the ALJ found that the
Plaintiff was not “disabled.” [Tr. 79-87]. The
Appeals Council remanded the case for further evaluation, and
on December 19, 2014, a second hearing was held before a
different ALJ. [Tr. 53-73]. On January 12, 2015, the ALJ
again found that the Plaintiff was not disabled. [Tr. 12-35].
The Appeals Council denied the Plaintiff's request for
review [Tr. 2-5]; thus, the ALJ's decision became the
final decision of the Commissioner.
exhausted her administrative remedies, the Plaintiff filed a
Complaint with this Court on November 23, 2015, seeking
judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision
under Section 405(g) of the Social Security Act. [Doc. 1].
The parties have filed competing dispositive motions, and
this matter is now ripe for adjudication.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
reviewing the Commissioner's determination of whether an
individual is disabled pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
the Court is limited to determining whether the ALJ's
decision was reached through application of the correct legal
standards and in accordance with the procedure mandated by
the regulations and rulings promulgated by the Commissioner,
and whether the ALJ's findings are supported by
substantial evidence. Blakley v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 405 (6th Cir. 2009) (citation
omitted); Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 378
F.3d 541, 544 (6th Cir. 2004).
evidence is “more than a scintilla of evidence but less
than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health &
Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994)
(citations omitted). It is immaterial whether the record may
also possess substantial evidence to support a different
conclusion from that reached by the ALJ, or whether the
reviewing judge may have decided the case differently.
Crisp v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 790
F.2d 450, 453 n.4 (6th Cir. 1986). The substantial evidence
standard is intended to create a “‘zone of
choice' within which the Commissioner can act, without
the fear of court interference.” Buxton v.
Halter, 246 F.3d 762, 773 (6th Cir. 2001) (quoting
Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986)).
Therefore, the Court will 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) (citation omitted).
review, the plaintiff “bears the burden of proving his
entitlement to benefits.” Boyes v. Sec'y. of
Health & Human Servs., 46 F.3d 510, 512 (6th Cir.
1994) (citation omitted).
case involves an application for DIB. An individual qualifies
for DIB if he or she: (1) is insured for DIB; (2) has not
reached the age of retirement; (3) has filed an application
for DIB; and (4) is disabled. 42 U.S.C. § 423(a)(1).
is 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 twelve months.” §
423(d)(1)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). A claimant will
only be considered disabled 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, regardless of
whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he
lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or
whether he would be hired if he applied for work.
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A); see 20 C.F.R. §
is evaluated pursuant to a five-step analysis summarized as
1. If claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, he is
2. If claimant is not doing substantial gainful activity, his
impairment must be severe before he can be found to be
3. If claimant is not doing substantial gainful activity and
is suffering from a severe impairment that has lasted or is
expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve
months, and his impairment meets or equals a listed