United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
MARILYN M. THORNTON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
Clifford Shirley, Jr. United States Magistrate Judge.
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. 23]. Now before the
Court is the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and
Memorandum in Support [Docs. 17 & 18] and the
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in
Support [Docs. 21 & 22]. Marilyn M. Thornton (“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 DENY the Plaintiff's motion, and
GRANT the Commissioner's motion.
the Plaintiff's second appeal before the District Court
seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision.
On August 6, 2014, Chief Judge Varlan remanded the
Plaintiff's prior civil action for additional
proceedings. [Tr. 718, 798-816]. During the pendency of that
civil action, the Plaintiff filed a subsequent application,
her third application in total, for Title II disability
insurance benefits. [Tr. 718]. When Chief Judge Varlan
remanded the prior civil action, the Appeals Council
consolidated the Plaintiff's subsequent, third
application with the remand case and assigned a new ALJ to
the instant matter. [Id.].
held a new hearing on December 8, 2015. [Tr. 738-75]. On
March 16, 2016, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. [Tr.
718-30]. The ALJ found that the Plaintiff was “not
disabled” between her alleged onset date of July 1,
2009, and her date last insured of December 31, 2012.
[Id.]. The Plaintiff did not seek review from the
Appeals Council, making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. Having exhausted her
administrative remedies once again, the Plaintiff filed the
instant Complaint now before the Court on May 16, 2016,
seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's 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.
made the following findings:
1. The claimant last met the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act on December 31, 2012.
2. The claimant did not engage in substantial gainful
activity during the period from her alleged onset date of
July 1, 2009, through her date last insured of December 31,
2012. (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq.).
3. Through the date last insured, the claimant had the
following severe impairments: bipolar disorder, posttraumatic
stress disorder, panic disorder, and borderline personality
disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
4. Through the date last insured, the claimant did not have
an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR
404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find
that, through the date last insured, the claimant had the
residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work
at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional
limitations: she is able to understand, remember, and carry
out simple and one-three-step detailed instructions but is
limited to work which requires no public interaction,
occasional interaction with supervisors and co-workers, and
no more than occasional changes in the workplace. She can
work better with things than with people.
6. Through the date last insured, the claimant was unable to
perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565).
7. The claimant was born on May 9, 1965 and at onset was 46
years old at, which is defined as a younger individual age
18-49. She was 47 years old on the date she was last insured
(20 CFR 404.1563).
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564).
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the
determination of disability because using the
Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding
that the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or
not she has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR
Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. Through the date last insured, considering the
claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual
functional capacity, there were jobs that existed in
significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant
could have performed (20 CFR 404.1569 and 404.1569(a)).
11. The claimant was not under a disability, as defined in
the Social Security Act, at any time from July 1, 2009, the
alleged onset date, through December 31, 2012, the date last
insured (20 CFR 404.1520(g)).
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).
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. ...