United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division
BETTY A. SMITH, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
ORDER AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE
THOMAS ANDERSON CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Betty A. Smith filed this action to obtain judicial review of
Defendant Commissioner's final decision denying her
application for disability insurance benefits under Title II
of the Social Security Act (“Act”).
Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration by the Social Security Administration.
Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an administrative
law judge (“ALJ”), which was held on July 29,
2015. On August 19, 2015, the ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review. Thus, the decision of the ALJ became the
Commissioner's final decision, and Plaintiff filed an
appeal in this Court. For the reasons set forth below, the
decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.
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 was a party. “The court shall have
the 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). The Court's review is limited to
determining whether there is substantial evidence to support
the Commissioner's decision and whether the correct legal
standards were applied. See Blakley v. Comm'r Of Soc.
Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 405 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Key
v. Callahan, 109 F.3d 270, 273 (6th Cir. 1997)).
Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Buxton v. Halter, 246 F.3d 762,
772 (6th Cir. 2001) (quoting Richardson v. Perales,
402 U.S. 389 (1971)). It is “more than a mere scintilla
of evidence, but less than a preponderance.” Rogers
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir.
Commissioner, not the Court, is charged with the duty to
weigh the evidence, to make credibility determinations and
resolve material conflicts in the testimony, and to decide
the case accordingly. See Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d
506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007) (“When deciding under 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) whether substantial evidence supports
the ALJ's decision, we do not try the case de novo,
resolve conflicts in evidence, or decide questions of
credibility.”). When substantial evidence supports the
Commissioner's determination, it is conclusive, even if
substantial evidence also supports the opposite conclusion.
See Rogers, 486 F.3d at 241 (stating that it is not
necessary that the Court agree with the Commissioner as long
as the decision is substantially supported by the record).
was born on March 4, 1966. She has a high school education
and past relevant work as an assembler and clerk. She alleges
disability due to poor circulation, varicose veins, overall
body pain, arthritis, depression, and a learning disability.
Her amended onset date is November 10, 2011.
made the following findings: (1) Plaintiff last met the
insured status requirements on March 31, 2012; (2) Plaintiff
has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the
alleged onset date; (3) since the alleged onset date,
Plaintiff has had the following severe impairments: venous
varicosities, status post stripping, rheumatoid arthritis,
math disorder, reading disorder, and obesity; but she does
not have impairments, either alone or in combination, that
meet or equal the requirements of any listed impairment
contained in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1 of the
listing of impairments; (5) on the date last insured,
Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to
perform sedentary work except that she could lift and carry
up to ten pounds occasionally and push and pull up to ten
pounds occasionally; she could stand or walk up to two out of
eight hours and sit up to six of eight hours with normal
breaks; she needed a sit/stand option every hour; she could
occasionally climb stairs or ramps but never climb ropes,
ladders, or scaffolds; she could occasionally stoop, kneel,
crouch, and crawl; she could occasionally perform overhead
work and use foot controls; there could be no written
instructions, no complex verbal instructions, and no work
requiring math skills; her work was limited to simple,
routine work, involving simple, work-related decisions with
few, if any, workplace changes; she had no social deficits;
(6) Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work;
(7) on the date last insured, Plaintiff was a younger
individual with a high school education; (8)
transferability of job skills is not material to the
determination of disability because using the
Medical-Vocational Rules (“the Grids”) as a
framework supports a finding that Plaintiff is not disabled
whether or not she had transferable skills; (9) through the
date last insured, considering Plaintiff's age,
education, work experience, and residual functional capacity,
there were jobs existing in significant numbers in the
national economy that Plaintiff could perform; (10) Plaintiff
was not under a disability within the meaning of the Act at
any time from the alleged onset date through the date last
insured. R. 23 - 34.
Social Security Act defines disability as the inability to
engage in substantial gainful activity. 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1). The claimant bears the ultimate burden of
establishing an entitlement to benefits. See Oliver v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 415 F. App'x 681, 682 (6th
Cir. 2011) (citing Wyatt v. Sec'y Health & Human
Servs., 974 F.2d 680, 683 (6th Cir. 1992)). The initial
burden of going forward is on the claimant to show that he or
she is disabled from engaging in his or her former
employment; the burden of going forward then shifts to the
Commissioner to demonstrate the existence of available
employment compatible with the claimant's disability and
background. Id. (“The claimant bears the
burden of proof during the first four steps, but the burden
shifts to the Commissioner at step five.”)
Commissioner conducts the following, five-step analysis to
determine if an individual is disabled within the meaning of
1. An individual who is engaging in substantial gainful
activity will not be found to be disabled regardless of
2. An individual who does not have a severe impairment will
not be found to be disabled.
3. A finding of disability will be made without consideration
of vocational factors, if an individual is not working and is
suffering from a severe impairment which meets the duration
requirement and which meets or equals a listed impairment in
Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the regulations.
4. An individual who can perform work that he or she has done
in the past will not be found to be disabled.
5. If an individual cannot perform his or her past work,
other factors including age, education, past work experience
and residual functional capacity must be considered to
determine if other work can be performed.
See Heston v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d 528,
534 (6th Cir. 2001) (describing the five-step sequential
process for ...