United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Northeastern Division
A. TRAUGER JUDGE
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON
PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
PATRICIA T. MORRIS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
light of the entire record in this case, I suggest that
substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's
determination that Plaintiff is not disabled. Accordingly, IT
IS RECOMMENDED that Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
Judgment, (Doc. 15), be DENIED.
Introduction and Procedural History
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 72, and by Notice of Reference, this case was
referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for the purpose
of reviewing a final decision by the Commissioner of Social
Security denying Plaintiff Sandra Kaye Melton's claim for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II, 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq., and Supplemental
Security Income benefits (“SSI”) under Title XVI,
42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq. (Doc. 19). The matter
is currently before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for
Summary Judgment. (Doc. 15).
November 1, 2012 and November 9, 2012, Plaintiff filed
applications for SSI and DIB, respectively, alleging a
disability onset date of June 30, 2005. (Tr. 204-17). The
Commissioner denied her claims initially and on
reconsideration. (Tr. 87-88, 120-21). Plaintiff then
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”), which occurred on November 26, 2014,
before ALJ James Dixon. (Tr. 37-60). The ALJ issued a
decision on March 26, 2015, finding Plaintiff not disabled.
(Tr. 18-34). On March 4, 2016, the Appeals Council denied
review, (Tr. 1-6), and Plaintiff filed for judicial review of
that final decision on May 5, 2016. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff filed
the instant Motion on October 5, 2016, (Doc. 15), and the
Commissioner responded on November 2, 2016, (Doc. 18).
Standard of Review
district court has jurisdiction to review the
Commissioner's final administrative decision pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The district court's review is
restricted solely to determining whether the
“Commissioner has failed to apply the correct legal
standard or has made findings of fact unsupported by
substantial evidence in the record.” Sullivan v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 595 F App'x. 502, 506 (6th
Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted). Substantial
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.” Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
Court must examine the administrative record as a whole, and
may consider any evidence in the record, regardless of
whether it has been cited by the ALJ. See Walker v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 884 F.2d 241,
245 (6th Cir. 1989). The Court will not “try the case
de novo, nor resolve conflicts in the evidence, nor decide
questions of credibility.” Cutlip v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir.
1994). If the Commissioner's decision is supported by
substantial evidence, “it must be affirmed even if the
reviewing court would decide the matter differently and even
if substantial evidence also supports the opposite
conclusion.” Id. at 286 (internal citations
Framework for Disability Determinations
the Act, “DIB and SSI are available only for those who
have a ‘disability.'” Colvin v.
Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007).
“Disability” means 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), 1382c(a)(3)(A) (DIB); 20
C.F.R. § 416.905(a) (SSI). The Commissioner's
regulations provide that disability is to be determined
through the application of a five-step sequential analysis:
(i) At the first step, we consider your work activity, if
any. If you are doing substantial gainful activity, we will
find that you are not disabled.
(ii) At the second step, we consider the medical severity of
your impairment(s). If you do not have a severe medically
determinable physical or mental impairment that meets the
duration requirement . . . or a combination of impairments
that is severe and meets the duration requirement, we will
find that you are not disabled.
(iii) At the third step, we also consider the medical
severity of your impairment(s). If you have an impairment(s)
that meets or equals one of our listings in appendix 1 of
this subpart and meets the duration requirement, we will find
that you are disabled.
(iv) At the fourth step, we consider our assessment of your
residual functional capacity and your past relevant work. If
you can still do your past relevant work, we will find that
you are not disabled.
(v) At the fifth and last step, we condiser our assessment of
your residual functional capacity and your age, education,
and work experience to see if you can make an adjustment to
other work. If you can make an adjustment to other work, we
will find that you are not disabled. If you cannot make an
adjustment to other work, we will find that you are disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; see also Heston
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d 528, 534 (6th Cir.
2001). “Through step four, the claimant bears the
burden of proving the existence and severity of limitations
caused by [his or] her impairments and the fact that she is
precluded from performing [his or] her past relevant
work.” Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336
F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). The burden transfers to the
Commissioner if the analysis reaches the fifth step without a
finding that the claimant is not disabled. Combs v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 459 F.3d 640, 643 (6th Cir.
2006). At the fifth step, the Commissioner is required to
show that “other jobs in significant numbers exist in
the national economy that [the claimant] could perform given
[his or] her RFC [residual functional capacity] and
considering relevant vocational factors.”
Rogers, 486 F.3d at 241 (citing 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(a)(4)(v), (g)).
the authority of the Social Security Act, the SSA has
promulgated regulations that provide for the payment of
disabled child's insurance benefits if the claimant is at
least eighteen years old and has a disability that began
before age twenty-two (20 C.F.R. 404.350(a) (5) (2013). A
claimant must establish a medically determinable physical or
mental impairment (expected to last at least twelve months or
result in death) that rendered her unable to engage in
substantial gainful activity. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
The regulations provide a five-step sequential evaluation for
evaluating disability claims. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520.
the five-step sequential analysis, the ALJ found Plaintiff
not disabled. (Tr. 21-29). At Step One, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff last met the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act on March 31, 2013, and had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity in the interval between her
alleged onset date of June 30, 2005, and her date last
insured. (Tr. 23-24). At Step Two, the ALJ concluded that the
following impairments qualified as severe: arthritis and
hearing loss. (Tr. 24). The ALJ also decided, however, that
none of these met or medically equaled a listed impairment at
Step Three. (Tr. 24-25). Thereafter, the ALJ ...