United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division
SERVOROUS J. REEVES, 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 Servorous J. Reeves's appeal from
a final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security(“Commissioner”) denying his
application for disability insurance benefits under Title II
and Title XVI of the Social Security Act (“Act”),
42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq. On April 4, 2016, the
parties consented to the jurisdiction of the United States
magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (ECF
No. 8.) This case was subsequently reassigned to the
undersigned on March 13, 2017. For the reasons set forth
below, the decision of the Commissioner is remanded.
March 10, 2011, Reeves applied for disability benefits under
Title II and Title XVI of the Act, alleging disability
beginning on September 27, 2010. (R. at 52.) The Social
Security Administration (“SSA”) denied these
claims initially and upon reconsideration. (Id.)
Upon Reeves's request, a hearing was held before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on January 9,
2012. (Id.) On June 3, 2013, the ALJ denied
Reeves's request for benefits after finding that he was
not under a disability because he retained the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform jobs that
exist in significant No. in the national economy. (R. at
3, 2013, Reeves reapplied for disability benefits under Title
II and Title XVI of the Act. (R. at 170, 175.) Reeves alleged
disability beginning on June 4, 2013, due to injuries he
sustained from a car accident in 2010, including a head
injury and a broken hip. (R. at 188, 193.) Reeves's last
date insured was December 31, 2014. (R. at 189.) The SSA also
denied this application initially and upon reconsideration.
(R. at 68, 87.) Reeves requested and received a second
hearing before an ALJ on January 6, 2015. (R. at 32.) On
February 11, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision denying
Reeves's request for benefits after finding that Reeves
was not under a disability because he retained the RFC to
perform jobs that exist in significant No. in the national
economy. (R. at 10-25.) On October 28, 2015, the SSA's
Appeals Council denied Reeves's request for review. (R.
at 1.) Therefore, the ALJ's decision became the final
decision for the Commissioner. (Id.) Subsequently,
on December 22, 2015, Reeves filed the instant action. (ECF
No. 1.) Reeves argues that the ALJ erred when formulating
Reeves's RFC by failing to consider the effects of
Reeves's mental limitations on his RFC and by giving too
little weight to the opinions of Reeves's examining
physician and examining psychiatrist. (ECF No. 18 at 14-15.)
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 No.
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
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, 416.920.
First, the claimant must not be engaged in substantial
gainful activity. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b),
416.920(b). Second, a finding must be made that the claimant
suffers from a severe impairment. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(5)(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, 416.920(d). 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),
416.920(a)(4)(iv). 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 ...