United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
ERNIE D. TUCKER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. Hood, Senior U.S. District Judge
Ernie D. Tucker brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) to obtain judicial review of an administrative
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his
claims for disability insurance benefits and supplemental
security income (SSI). The Court, having reviewed the record,
will AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision
as it is supported by substantial evidence.
review of the Commissioner's decision is limited to
determining whether it is supported by substantial evidence
and was made pursuant to proper legal standards. Cutlip
v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25
F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994). “Substantial
evidence” is defined as “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.” Id. Courts are not to
conduct a de novo review, resolve conflicts in the evidence,
or make credibility determinations. Id. Rather, we
are to affirm the Commissioner's decision, provided it is
supported by substantial evidence, even if we might have
decided the case differently. See Her v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 203 F.3d 388, 389-90 (6th Cir. 1999).
ALJ, in determining disability, conducts a five-step
analysis. See Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336
F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). Step One considers whether the
claimant is still performing substantial gainful activity;
Step Two, whether any of the claimant's impairments are
“severe”; Step Three, whether the impairments
meet or equal a listing in the Listing of Impairments; Step
Four, whether the claimant can still perform his past
relevant work; and Step Five, whether significant numbers of
other jobs exist in the national economy which the claimant
can perform. As to the last step, the burden of proof shifts
from the claimant to the Commissioner. Id.; see
also Preslar v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.,
14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994).
5, 2012, Plaintiff filed his applications for disability
insurance benefits and SSI alleging disability as of January
1, 2009 which he later amended to February 1, 2011 (Tr. 14,
37, 179). He alleged disability due to chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, high cholesterol, nerve
damage, and loss of feeling in the right ankle (Tr. 265).
Plaintiff's claims were denied initially and on
reconsideration and Plaintiff then requested a hearing on the
matter (Tr. 156). Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Renee S. Andrews-Turner conducted a
hearing, but thereafter denied Plaintiff's claims (Tr.
14-27). On April 16, 2016, the Appeals Council declined
Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 4-10), making the
ALJ's October 31, 2014, decision the final agency
decision for purposes of judicial review. This appeal
followed and the case is ripe for review pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
careful consideration of the entire record, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff had severe impairments that included diabetes
mellitus with neuropathy; chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease; hyperlipidemia; anxiety disorder; a depressive
disorder; and a personality disorder (Tr. 17). However, the
ALJ found that he did not have an impairment or combination
of impairments listed in or medically equal to one contained
in 20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P, appendix 1 (Tr. 17).
determined that Plaintiff retained the residual functional
capacity to lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10
pounds frequently; stand and walk three hours in an
eight-hour workday; has no sitting restrictions; occasionally
push and pull with the bilateral lower extremities. He should
avoid concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dust, gases, and
poor ventilation; could understand, remember, and carry out
simple instructions; could occasionally interact with
coworkers and supervisors; could have no interaction with the
general public; and could adapt to infrequent change in the
found that Plaintiff's impairments would not preclude him
from performing work that exists in significant numbers in
the national economy, including work as an inspector, table
worker, and assembler (Tr. 26). Consequently, ALJ
Turner-Andrews concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled (Tr.
Plaintiff generally argues that the ALJ's decision was
not supported by substantial evidence, he raises several
specific issues: whether the ALJ properly evaluated the
severity of Plaintiff's impairments, whether the ALJ
properly considered Plaintiff's mental impairments, and
whether substantial evidence supported the finding that
Plaintiff could perform “other” work. Plaintiff
alleges that the ALJ erred in evaluating the severity of his
impairments because the ALJ did not find that hand neuropathy
was a separate impairment, even while reaching the overall
finding that Plaintiff had diabetic neuropathy. See Pl.'s
Br. at 13. However, the ALJ could find that despite a finding
that Plaintiff had diabetic neuropathy, the medical evidence
did not show that Plaintiff had a distinct additional
impairment of hand neuropathy (Tr. 17).
found that Plaintiff had severe impairments, including
diabetes with neuropathy, COPD, hyperlipidemia (i.e. high
cholesterol), depression, and personality disorder (Tr. 17).
However, the ALJ declined to find that Plaintiff had the
specific additional impairment of neuropathy in the hands,
finding that the record did not support that this was a
medically determinable impairment (Tr. 17).
severe impairment is an impairment that more than minimally
impacts an individual's ability to work. See 20
C.F.R. § 404.1521 (severe impairments); SSR 96-3p.
Plaintiff has the burden of showing that the impairment is
severe and that it met the 12 month durational requirements
of the Act. See Harley v. Comm'r of SocialSec., 485 F. App'x 802, 803 (6th Cir. 2012). He