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Frisell v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

July 10, 2017

JAMIE MARIE FRISELL, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          C. CLIFFORD SHIRLEY, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This 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. 13]. Now before the Court is the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 15 & 16] and the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 17 & 18]. Jamie Marie Frisell (“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 the Plaintiff's motion and DENY the Commissioner's motion.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On September 8, 2010, the Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”), claiming a period of disability which began August 10, 2010. [Tr. 207-08]. After her application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, the Plaintiff requested a hearing. [Tr. 114]. On March 5, 2012, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff was not disabled. [Tr. 87-100]. The Appeals Council granted the Plaintiff's request for review [Tr. 101-04] and a second hearing was conducted on May 27, 2014 [Tr. 44-84]. On August 6, 2014, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff was not disabled. [Tr. 12-26]. The Appeals Council denied the Plaintiff's request for review [Tr. 1-3]; thus, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Having exhausted her administrative remedies, the Plaintiff filed a Complaint with this Court on March 18, 2016, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision under Section 405(g) of the Social Security Act with regard to the Plaintiff's DIB application. [Doc. 1]. The parties have filed competing dispositive motions, and this matter is now ripe for adjudication.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When 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).

         Substantial 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).

         On 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).

         III. ANALYSIS

         This 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).

         “Disability” 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 ...

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