United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division
JERRY G. CARRINGTON, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
ORDER REMANDING CASE PURSUANT TO 42 U.S.C. §
PHAM UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the court is plaintiff Jerry G. Carrington's appeal from
a final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security(“Commissioner”) denying his
application for disability insurance benefits under Title II
of the Social Security Act (“Act”), 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401 et seq. On January 1, 2016, the
parties consented to the jurisdiction of the United States
magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (ECF
No. 9.) For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the
Commissioner is remanded.
January 16, 2013, Carrington applied for disability benefits
under Title II of the Act. (R. at 148, 158.) Carrington
alleged disability beginning on June 12, 2012, due to neck
and back injuries from a motor vehicle accident, depression,
anxiety, bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and
hypertension. (R. at 158, 162.) Carrington's last date
insured was December 31, 2016. (R. at 10, 150.) The Social
Security Administration (“SSA”) denied
Carrington's application initially and upon
reconsideration. (R. at 79, 84.) At Carrington's request,
a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) on October 27, 2014. (R. at 25.) On
December 3, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision denying
Carrington's request for benefits after finding that
Carrington was not under a disability because he retained the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy. (R. at 10-24.) On September 25, 2015, the SSA's
Appeals Council denied Carrington's request for review.
(R. at 1.) Therefore, the ALJ's decision became the final
decision for the Commissioner. (Id.) Subsequently,
on November 3, 3015, Carrington filed the instant action.
(ECF No. 1.) Carrington argues that (1) the ALJ erred when
weighing the opinions of the medical sources involved in this
case; (2) the ALJ erred when finding that Carrington's
testimony was not entirely credible; (3) the ALJ used an
incorrect standard to assess three of Carrington's
medical conditions; (4) the ALJ erred when making the RFC
determination; and (5) on a whole, the ALJ's decision was
not supported by substantial evidence. (ECF No. 13 at 11-21.)
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
Standard of Review
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 she or he was a party. “The court
shall have 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). Judicial review of the Commissioner's
decision is limited to whether there is substantial evidence
to support the decision and whether the Commissioner used the
proper legal criteria in making the decision. Id.;
Burton v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 16-4190, 2017
WL 2781570, at *2 (6th Cir. June 27, 2017); Cole v.
Astrue, 661 F.3d 931, 937 (6th Cir. 2011); Rogers v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir.
2007). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla of
evidence but less than preponderance and is “such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Kirk v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 667 F.2d 524,
535 (6th Cir. 1981) (quoting Richardson v. Perales,
402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)).
determining whether substantial evidence exists, the
reviewing court must examine the evidence in the record as a
whole and “must ‘take into account whatever in
the record fairly detracts from its weight.'”
Abbott v. Sullivan, 905 F.2d 918, 923 (6th Cir.
1990) (quoting Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 388
(6th Cir. 1984)). If substantial evidence is found to support
the Commissioner's decision, however, the court must
affirm that decision and “may not even inquire whether
the record could support a decision the other way.”
Barker v. Shalala, 40 F.3d 789, 794 (6th Cir. 1994)
(quoting Smith v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 893 F.2d 106, 108 (6th Cir. 1989)). Similarly,
the court may “not try the case de novo, resolve
conflicts in the evidence or decide questions of
credibility.” Ulman v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 693 F.3d 709, 713 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting
Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007)).
The Commissioner, not the court, is charged with the duty to
weigh the evidence and to resolve material conflicts in the
testimony. Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127
F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997); Crum v. Sullivan, 921
F.2d 642, 644 (6th Cir. 1990); Prater v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., No. 114CV01221STATMP, 2017 WL 2929479, at *1
(W.D. Tenn. July 10, 2017).
The Five-Step Analysis
defines disability as 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 12
months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1). Additionally,
section 423(d)(2) of the Act states that:
An individual shall be determined to be under a disability
only 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. For
purposes of the preceding sentence (with respect to any
individual), “work which exists in the national
economy” means work which exists in significant numbers
either in the region where such individual lives or in
several regions of the country.
the Act, the claimant bears the ultimate burden of
establishing an entitlement to benefits. Oliver v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 415 F. App'x 681, 682 (6th
Cir. 2011). The initial burden is on the claimants to prove
they have a disability as defined by the Act. Siebert v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 105 F. App'x 744, 746 (6th
Cir. 2004) (citing Walters, 127 F.3d at 529);
see also Born v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 923 F.2d 1168, 1173 (6th Cir. 1990). If the
claimant is able to do so, the burden then shifts to the
Commissioner to demonstrate the existence of available
employment compatible with the claimant's disability and
background. Born, 923 F.2d at 1173; see also
Griffith v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 582 F. App'x
555, 559 (6th Cir. 2014).
to social security benefits is determined by a five-step
sequential analysis set forth in the Social Security
Regulations. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. First,
the claimant must not be engaged in substantial gainful
activity. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). Second,
a finding must be made that the claimant suffers from a
severe impairment. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). In
the third step, the ALJ determines whether the impairment
meets or equals the severity criteria set forth in the
Listing of Impairments contained in the Social Security
Regulations. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d),
404.1525, 404.1526. If the impairment satisfies the criteria
for a listed impairment, the claimant is considered to be
disabled. On the other hand, if the claimant's impairment
does not meet or equal a listed impairment, the ALJ must
undertake the fourth step in the analysis and determine
whether the claimant has the RFC to return to any past
relevant work. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 404.1520(e). If the ALJ determines that
the claimant can return to past relevant work, then a finding
of not disabled must be entered. Id. But if the ALJ
finds the claimant unable to perform past relevant work, then
at the fifth step the ALJ must determine whether the claimant
can perform other work existing in significant numbers in the
national economy. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(v), 404.1520(g). Further review is not
necessary if it is determined that an individual is not
disabled at any point in this sequential analysis. 20 C.F.R.