United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee
A. VARLAN CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case is before the Court on plaintiff's Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 8,
9] and defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and
Memorandum in Support [Docs. 14, 15]. Linda Lee Lane
(“plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the
decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“the
ALJ”), the final decision of defendant Nancy A.
Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“the
Commissioner”). For the reasons that follow, the Court
will grant plaintiff's motion and deny the
filed an application for supplemental security income
(“SSI”), claiming a period of disability which
began April 1, 2012 [Tr. 134-39]. After her application was
denied initially and upon reconsideration, plaintiff
requested a hearing before an ALJ [Tr. 104-06]. On April 30,
2013, a hearing was held before the ALJ to review the denial
of plaintiff's claim [Tr. 32-66]. On July 22, 2014, the
ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled [Tr. 16-27]. The
Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review
[Tr. 5-9]. Thus, the decision of the ALJ became the final
decision of the Commissioner.
exhausted her administrative remedies, plaintiff filed a
Complaint with this Court on April 11, 2016, 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. Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 378 F.3d 541, 544 (6th Cir. 2004); Blakley v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 405 (6th Cir.
2009) (citation omitted).
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 SSI benefits. To qualify for
SSI benefits, an individual must file an application and be
an “eligible individual” as defined in the Act.
42 U.S.C. § 1382(a); 20 C.F.R. § 416.202. An
individual is eligible for SSI benefits on the basis of
financial need and either age, blindness, or disability.
See 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a).
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.” §
1382c(a)(3)(B); 20 C.F.R. § 416.905(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. § 1382c(a)(3)(B); see 20 C.F.R.
is evaluated pursuant to a five-step analysis ...