Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Eastwood v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

September 15, 2017

LESLIE C. EASTWOOD, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION

          TU M. PHAM, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the court is plaintiff Leslie C. Eastwood's appeal from a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security[1](“Commissioner”) denying his application for disability insurance benefits under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act (“Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq. On December 6, 2016, the parties consented to the jurisdiction of the United States magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (ECF No. 20.) For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the Commissioner is affirmed.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On May 9, 2006, Eastwood applied for disability benefits under Title II and Title XVI of the Act. (R. at 100, 105.) Eastwood alleged disability beginning on May 5, 2006, due to problems with both of his shoulders and heart problems resulting from a stent in his main artery. (R. at 100, 139.) The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denied Eastwood's application at the initial level on October 20, 2006. (R. at 40-41, 46-49, 188.) Eastwood reapplied for benefits under Title II and Title XVI of the Act on August 26, 2009. (R. at 109.) Eastwood again alleged disability beginning on May 5, 2006, this time due to “rips and tears in shoulders” and heart disease. (R. at 178.) The SSA denied the second application initially and upon reconsideration. (R. at 42-45, 54-57.) At Eastwood's request, a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on March 22, 2011. (R. at 25-39.) After this hearing, Eastwood amended his alleged disability onset date to August, 72009. (R. at 543.) On June 29, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision denying Eastwood's request for benefits after finding Eastwood was not under a disability because he retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. (R. at 14-18.) On January 1, 2012, the SSA's Appeals Council denied Eastwood's request for review. (R. at 1.) Eastwood then filed a complaint in this court, and the court remanded the case on October 31, 2012, pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for further administrative proceedings. (R. at 619-20.) On January 9, 2013, the SSA's Appeals Council remanded the case to the ALJ for proceedings based on the court's order. (R. at 621-25.) On April 25, 2013, the ALJ held a second hearing and, on June 11, 2013, issued a decision again finding Eastwood not under a disability. (R. at 540-79.) On August 4, 2014, the SSA's Appeals Counsel denied Eastwood's request for review. (R. at 535-37.) Therefore, the ALJ's decision became the final decision for the Commissioner. (Id.) Subsequently, on August 10, 2014, Eastwood filed the instant action. (ECF No. 1.) Eastwood argues that the ALJ's determination that Eastwood is not disabled is not supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ erred in determining Eastwood could perform work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (ECF No. 16 at 9-11.)

         II. CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

         A. Standard of Review

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a claimant may obtain judicial review of any final decision made by the Commissioner after a hearing to which he or she was a party. “The court shall have power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Judicial review of the Commissioner's decision is limited to whether there is substantial evidence to support the decision and whether the Commissioner used the proper legal criteria in making the decision. Id.; Burton v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 16-4190, 2017 WL 2781570, at *2 (6th Cir. June 27, 2017); Cole v. Astrue, 661 F.3d 931, 937 (6th Cir. 2011); Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance, and is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Kirk v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 667 F.2d 524, 535 (6th Cir. 1981) (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)).

         In determining whether substantial evidence exists, the reviewing court must examine the evidence in the record as a whole and “must ‘take into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from its weight.'” Abbott v. Sullivan, 905 F.2d 918, 923 (6th Cir. 1990) (quoting Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 388 (6th Cir. 1984)). If substantial evidence is found to support the Commissioner's decision, however, the court must affirm that decision and “may not even inquire whether the record could support a decision the other way.” Barker v. Shalala, 40 F.3d 789, 794 (6th Cir. 1994) (quoting Smith v.Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 893 F.2d 106, 108 (6th Cir. 1989)). Similarly, the court may “not try the case de nov resolve conflicts in the evidence or decide questions of credibility.” Ulman v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 693 F.3d 709, 713 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007)). The Commissioner, not the court, is charged with the duty to weigh the evidence and to resolve material conflicts in the testimony. Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997); Crum v. Sullivan, 921 F.2d 642, 644 (6th Cir. 1990); Prater v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 114CV01221STATMP, 2017 WL 2929479, at *1 (W.D. Tenn. July 10, 2017).

         B. The Five-Step Analysis

         The Act defines 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.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1). Additionally, section 423(d)(2) of the Act states that:

         An individual shall be determined to be under a disability 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, 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. For purposes of the preceding sentence (with respect to any individual), “work which exists in the national economy” means work which exists in significant numbers either in the region where such individual lives or in several regions of the country.

         Under the Act, the claimant bears the ultimate burden of establishing an entitlement to benefits. Oliver v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 415 F. App'x 681, 682 (6th Cir. 2011). The initial burden is on the claimant to prove she has a disability as defined by the Act. Siebert v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 105 F. App'x 744, 746 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing Walters, 127 F.3d at 529); see also Born v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 923 F.2d 1168, 1173 (6th Cir. 1990). If the claimant is able to do so, the burden then shifts to the Commissioner to demonstrate the existence of available employment compatible with the claimant's disability and background. Born, 923 F.2d at 1173; see also Griffith v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 582 F. App'x 555, 559 (6th Cir. 2014).

         Entitlement to social security benefits is determined by a five-step sequential analysis set forth in the Social Security Regulations. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. First, the claimant must not be engaged in substantial gainful activity. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). Second, a finding must be made that the claimant suffers from a severe impairment. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(5)(ii). In the third step, the ALJ determines whether the impairment meets or equals the severity criteria set forth in the Listing of Impairments contained in the Social Security Regulations. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d). If the impairment satisfies the criteria for a listed impairment, the claimant is considered to be disabled. On the other hand, if the claimant's impairment does not meet or equal a listed impairment, the ALJ must undertake the fourth step in the analysis and determine whether the claimant has the RFC to return to any past relevant work. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 404.1520(e), 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If the ALJ determines that the claimant can return to past relevant work, then a finding of not disabled must be entered. Id. But if the ALJ finds the claimant unable to perform past relevant work, then at the fifth step the ALJ must determine whether the claimant can perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 404.1520(g)(1), 416.960(c)(1)-(2). Further review is not necessary if it is determined that an individual is not disabled at any point in this sequential analysis. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4).

         C. The ALJ's Step ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.