United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
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. 18]. Now before the
Court is the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and
Memorandum in Support [Docs. 23 & 24] and the
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in
Support [Docs. 27 & 28]. Francis Cline (“the
Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the decision of
the Administrative Law Judge (“the ALJ”), the
final decision of Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting
Commissioner of Social Security (“the
Commissioner”). For the reasons that follow, the Court
will GRANT IN PART AND DENY IN PART the
Plaintiff's motion and GRANT IN PART AND DENY IN
PART the Commissioner's motion.
October 22, 2012, the Plaintiff filed an application for
disability insurance benefits pursuant to Title II of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-403, claiming
a period of disability that began on June 1, 2011. [Tr.
1184-87]. After her application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration, the Plaintiff requested a hearing before an
ALJ. [Tr. 140-41]. A hearing was held on October 28, 2014.
[Tr. 40-92]. On March 16, 2015, the ALJ found that the
Plaintiff was not disabled. [Tr. 22-32]. The Appeals Council
denied the Plaintiff's request for review [Tr. 1-6],
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
exhausted her administrative remedies, the Plaintiff filed a
Complaint with this Court on August 12, 2016, seeking
judicial review of the Commissioner's final 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 meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through March 31, 2015.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since June 1, 2011, the alleged onset date (20 CFR
404.1571 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
obesity; status post gastric bypass surgery; asthma; seizure
disorder; migraine headaches; depressive disorder; anxiety
disorder; and alcohol dependence in sustain remission (20 CFR
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), 404.1525 and 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform the full range of medium work
as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c). The claimant can frequently
perform all postural activities. She can understand and
remember simple, and one-to-three step instructions. She has
the ability to maintain concentration, persistence, and pace
for two-hour periods for those tasks. She can interact
appropriately with peers and supervisors and can adapt to
routine workplace changes.
6. The claimant is capable of performing all past relevant
work. This work does not require the performance of
work-related activities precluded by the claimant's
residual functional capacity. (20 CFR 404.1565).
7. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from June 1, 2011, through the
date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(f)).
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.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). A claimant
will only be considered disabled 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.
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A); see 20 C.F.R. §
is evaluated pursuant to a five-step analysis summarized as
1. If claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, he is
2. If claimant is not doing substantial gainful activity, his
impairment must be severe before he can be found to be
3. If claimant is not doing substantial gainful activity and
is suffering from a severe impairment that has lasted or is
expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve
months, and his impairment meets or equals a listed