United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
CLIFTON L. CORKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the United States Magistrate Judge with
consent of the parties and by order of reference [Doc. 14]
for disposition and entry of a final judgment.
Plaintiff's application for Disability Insurance Benefits
and/or Supplemental Security Income under the Social Security
Act was administratively denied following a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). This is an
action for judicial review of the Commissioner's final
decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff and
Defendant each filed Motions for Summary Judgment [Docs. 15,
APPLICABLE LAW - STANDARD OF REVIEW
scope of review of the Commissioner's findings is narrow.
The Court is confined to determining (1) whether substantial
evidence supported the factual findings of the ALJ and (2)
whether the Commissioner conformed with the relevant legal
standards. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see Brainard v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 889 F.2d 679,
681 (6th Cir. 1989). “Substantial evidence” is
defined as evidence that is more than a mere scintilla and is
such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support the challenged conclusion. Richardson
v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). It must be enough
to justify, if the trial were to a jury, a refusal to direct
a verdict when the conclusion sought to be drawn is one of
fact for the jury. Lemaster v. Sec'y of Health &
Humans Servs., 802 F.2d 839, 841 (6th Cir. 1986). The
Court may 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). Even if the reviewing court were to resolve
the factual issues differently, the Commissioner's
decision must stand if supported by substantial evidence.
Listenbee v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Services, 846 F.2d 345, 349 (6th Cir. 1988). However, a
decision supported by substantial evidence “will not be
upheld where the [Social Security Administration] fails to
follow its own regulations and where that error prejudices a
claimant on the merits or deprives the claimant of a
substantial right.” Bowen v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 478 F.3d 742, 746 (6th Cir. 2007).
claimant must be under a “disability” as defined
by the Social Security Act to be eligible for benefits.
Within the statutory meaning, a “disability”
includes physical and/or mental impairments that are both
“medically determinable” and severe enough to
prevent the claimant from (1) performing his past job and (2)
engaging in “substantial gainful activity” that
is available in the regional or national economies. 42 U.S.C.
five-step sequential evaluation process applies in disability
determinations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 &
416.920. A dispositive finding at any step ends a review,
see Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir.
2007). The complete review poses five questions:
1. Has the claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity?
2. Does the claimant suffer from one or more severe
3. Do the claimant's severe impairments, alone or in
combination, meet or equal the criteria of an impairment set
forth in the Commissioner's Listing of Impairments (the
“Listings”), 20 C.F.R. Subpart P, Appendix 1?
4. Considering the claimant's [Residual Functional
Capacity], can he or she perform his or her past relevant
5. Assuming the claimant can no longer perform his or her
past relevant work -- and also considering the claimant's
age, education, past work experience, and RFC -- do
significant numbers of other jobs exist in the national
economy which the claimant can perform?
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4) & 416.920(a)(4).
claimant has the ultimate burden to establish an entitlement
to benefits by proving the existence of a disability as
defined in 42 U.S.C. § 423(d), ” while the
Commissioner has the burden to establish the claimant's
ability to work under step five. Moon v. Sullivan,
923 F.2d 1175, 1181 (6th Cir. 1990).
RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL OVERVIEW
Ronald Wayne Sarber (“Sarber”), asserts he is
disabled due to a back disorder and social anxiety disorder
(Tr. 15) (reference to “Tr” and the page denote
the administrative record). He was a person closely
approaching advanced age under the regulations at the time of
his March 2013 application, 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563
and 416.963, in which he alleged a disability onset date of
January 1, 2012 (Tr. 13). He was a person of advanced age at
the time of the December 3, 2014, Decision.
insured status expired on June 30, 2016. (Tr. 15). He must
establish disability on or before that date to be entitled to
benefits. Sarber's claims were initially denied on
September 26, 2013, and again upon reconsideration on
December 23, 2013. (Tr. 118, 123). An ALJ conducted a hearing
on November 12, 2014; Plaintiff and a Vocational Expert
(“VE”) testified. (Tr. 30-50).
conducted the five-step analysis in evaluating the claims.
The ALJ's Decision (Tr. 13) made several findings,
including that Sarber was not disabled:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through June 30, 2016;
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since January 1, 2012, the alleged onset date (20
CFR 404.1571 et seq. and 416.971 et seq.);
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: a back
disorder and social anxiety disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526,
416.920(d), 416.925 and 406.926);
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform medium work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c) except that he can perform
occasional postural activity (climbing, stooping, kneeling,
crouching, and crawling) and occasional overhead reaching
bilaterally. The claimant should avoid concentrated exposure
to vibrations and hazards, and he is limited to performing
simple, unskilled work. In addition, the claimant should work
with things rather than people, having only occasional
contact with coworkers, supervisors, or the public;
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 CFR 401.1565 and 416.965);
7. The claimant was born on January 30, 1958, and was 53
years old, which is defined as an individual closely
approaching advanced age, on the alleged disability onset
date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963);
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English (20 CFR ...