United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
CLIFTON L. CORKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the United States Magistrate Judge under the
standing orders of the Court and 28 U.S.C. § 636 for a
report and recommendation. Plaintiff's Disability
Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income
applications under Social Security Act, Titles II and XVI
(the “Act”) were denied after a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). This action is
for judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision
per 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff filed a Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings [Doc. 13]. Defendant filed a Motion
for Summary Judgment [Doc. 15] to which Plaintiff filed a
response [Doc. 17].
APPLICABLE LAW - STANDARD OF REVIEW
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
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. LeMaster v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 802 F.2d 839, 841 (6th Cir. 1986). A Court may
not try the case de novo, resolve conflicts in the
evidence, or decide questions of credibility. Garner v.
Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984). Even if the
Court were to resolve factual issues differently, the
Commissioner's decision must stand if substantial
evidence supports it. Listenbee v. Sec'y of Health
& Human Services, 846 F.2d 345, 349 (6th Cir. 1988).
But, 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). The Court
may consider any evidence in the record regardless of whether
it has been cited by the ALJ. Heston v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d. 528, 535 (6th Cir. 2001).
claimant must be under a “disability” as defined
by the Act to be eligible for benefits.
“Disability” includes physical and mental
impairments that are “medically determinable” and
so severe as to prevent the claimant from (1) performing her
past job and (2) engaging in “substantial gainful
activity” that is available in the regional or national
economies. 42 U.S.C. § 423(a).
five-step sequential evaluation applies in disability
determinations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 &
416.920. Review ends with a dispositive finding at any step.
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 burden to establish an entitlement to
benefits by proving the existence of a disability under 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). See Boyes v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 46 F.3d 510, 512 (6th Cir.
1994). The Commissioner has the burden to establish the
claimant's ability to work at step five. Moon v.
Sullivan, 923 F.2d 1175, 1181 (6th Cir. 1990).
RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL OVERVIEW
Juanita Brewer (“Brewer”) was a younger person at
the time of her applications. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563
& 416.963. She alleged an onset date of August 5, 2009,
and had insured status through December 31, 2014. (Doc. 9,
Transcript pp. 18, 20) (reference to “Tr” and the
page denote the administrative record). She alleged several
impairments she believed to be disabling.
claims were initially denied in April 2014 and upon
reconsideration in August 2014. (Tr. 18). An ALJ conducted a
hearing on January 5, 2016. Brewer and a vocational expert
testified. (Tr. 39-57). The ALJ followed the five-step
analysis in evaluating the claims. The ALJ found Brewer had
severe medical impairments, including osteoporosis, curvature
of the spine, medullary sponge kidney, degenerative disc
disease, and history of syncope. (Tr. 20). However, the ALJ
ultimately made the dispositive finding that she was not
disabled. The findings were:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2014;
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since August 5, 2009, the alleged onset date (20 CFR
404.1571 et seq. and 416.971 et seq.);
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
osteoporosis, curvature of the spine, medullary sponge
kidney, and history of syncope (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), ...