United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
CLIFTON L. CORKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the United States Magistrate Judge with
consent of the parties and by order of reference [Doc. 23]
for disposition and entry of a final judgment.
Plaintiff's Disability Insurance Benefits and
Supplemental Security Income applications under the Social
Security Act, Titles II and XVI were denied after a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). This
action is for judicial review of the Commissioner's final
decision per 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Commissioner has
filed a motion for summary judgment [Doc. 21]. Plaintiff has
filed a motion to approve disability claim, which the Court
will treat as a motion for judgement on the pleadings [Doc.
APPLICABLE LAW - STANDARD OF REVIEW
review of the Commissioner's findings is narrow. The
Court is confined to determining (1) whether substantial
evidence supported the factual findings of the ALJ and (2)
whether the Commissioner conformed with the relevant legal
standards. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see Brainard v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 889 F.2d 679,
681 (6th Cir. 1989). “Substantial evidence” is
evidence that is more than a mere scintilla and is such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support the challenged conclusion. Richardson
v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). It must be enough
to justify, if the trial were to a jury, a refusal to direct
a verdict when the conclusion sought to be drawn is one of
fact. LeMaster v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 802 F.2d 839, 841 (6th Cir. 1986). A court may
not try the case de novo, resolve conflicts in the
evidence, or decide questions of credibility. Garner v.
Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984). Even if a
court were to resolve factual issues differently, the
decision must stand if substantial evidence supports it.
Listenbee v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Services, 846 F.2d 345, 349 (6th Cir. 1988). But, a
decision supported by substantial evidence “will not be
upheld where the [Social Security Administration] fails to
follow its own regulations and where that error prejudices a
claimant on the merits or deprives the claimant of a
substantial right.” Bowen v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 478 F.3d 742, 746 (6th Cir. 2007).
claimant must be under a “disability” as defined
by the Act to be eligible for benefits.
“Disability” includes physical and mental
impairments that are “medically determinable” and
so severe as to prevent the claimant from (1) performing her
past job and (2) engaging in “substantial gainful
activity” that is available in the regional or national
economies. 42 U.S.C. § 423(a).
five-step sequential evaluation applies in disability
determinations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 &
416.920. Review ends with a dispositive finding at any step.
See Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir.
2007). The complete review poses five questions:
1. Has the claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity?
2. Does the claimant suffer from one or more severe
3. Do the claimant's severe impairments, alone or in
combination, meet or equal the criteria of an impairment set
forth in the Commissioner's Listing of Impairments (the
“Listings”), 20 C.F.R. Subpart P, Appendix 1?
4. Considering the claimant's [Residual Functional
Capacity], can he or she perform his or her past relevant
5. Assuming the claimant can no longer perform his or her
past relevant work -- and also considering the claimant's
age, education, past work experience, and RFC -- do
significant numbers of other jobs exist in the national
economy which the claimant can perform?
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4) & 416.920(a)(4).
claimant has the burden to establish entitlement to benefits
by proving the existence of a disability under 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(A). See Boyes v. Sec'y of Health
& Human Servs., 46 F.3d 510, 512 (6th Cir. 1994).
The Commissioner has the burden to establish the
claimant's ability to work at step five. Moon v.
Sullivan, 923 F.2d 1175, 1181 (6th Cir. 1990).
RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL OVERVIEW
Dean Cochrane (“Cochrane”) filed applications for
disability insurance and supplemental security income in
April 2011. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563
& 416.963. The alleged onset date was November 26, 2010.
(Doc. 14, Transcript pp. 99) (reference to “Tr”
and the page denote the administrative record).
Cochrane's claims were denied on July 15, 2011. (Tr. 99).
The claims were again denied upon reconsideration in January
2012. (Id.). An ALJ conducted a hearing on February
4, 2014. Cochrane and a vocational expert testified. (Tr.
April 2005, five years prior to his alleged onset date,
Cochrane was treated for acute coronary syndrome with
coronary artery disease (CAD) and had stents implanted (Tr.
452-53, 465). In February 2007, he was admitted twice to the
hospital for chest pain after being arrested for being
intoxicated (Tr. 480, 490). Diagnostic tests were all normal
(Tr. 492, 494, 496).
alleged onset date of November 26, 2010, Cochrane was
admitted to Henry Medical Center for abdominal pain (Tr.
382). An echocardiogram was normal. He was discharged five
days later with a prescription for an anticoagulant. (Tr.
382). A month later he returned to Henry Medical Center with
right-sided weakness (Tr. 362, 364). All testing was negative
and there was no evidence of any cerebrovascular accident
(Tr. 362, 369, 375-79). His symptoms resolved while
hospitalized. He was diagnosed with weakness secondary to
alcohol withdrawal (Tr. 365).
29, 2011, Bato Amu, M.D., a State agency reviewing physician,
noted that Cochrane had a history of coronary disease with
stent placement, inguinal hernia repair, and splenic and
renal infarctions (Tr. 409). He opined that all of these
conditions were non-severe as they had resolved either while
in the hospital or did not pose any impairment, restrictions
administrative hearing, the vocational expert testified
Cochrane could not return to his past work. The ALJ asked a
hypothetical assuming an individual who could perform light
work but could only perform and maintain concentration and
persistence for simple, routine and repetitive tasks (Tr.
128). The VE identified jobs such as production assembler,
automatic carwash attendant, and parking lot attendant. The
VE testified that those jobs exists in significant numbers in
the national and regional economy (Tr. 128-29).
followed the five-step analysis in evaluating the claims and
reaching a decision. The ALJ found Cochrane had severe
impairments, (Tr. 101), but was not disabled. The April 22,
2014, the ALJ made the following findings:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through June 30, 2014;
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since November 26, 2010, the alleged onset date (20