United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville
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 Plaintiff's Motion for Judgement on the
Pleadings and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 19 & 20] and
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in
Support [Docs. 21 & 22]. Erin Colleen Sullivan
(“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 DENY Plaintiff's motion and
GRANT the Commissioner's motion.
16, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for disability
insurance benefits pursuant to Title XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq.,
claiming a period of disability that began December 16, 2009.
[Tr. 37, 112-13]. After her application was denied initially
and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing
before an ALJ. [Tr. 67]. A hearing was held on April 23,
2015. [Tr. 23-41]. On May 27, 2015, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff was not disabled. [Tr. 11-18]. The Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review [Tr. 2-4], making
the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
exhausted her administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed a
Complaint with this Court on December 6, 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 has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since July 16, 2013, the application date (20 CFR
416.971 et seq.).
2. The claimant has the following medically determinable
impairments: complex regional pain syndrome of the lower
extremity; degenerative disc disease; arthritis; migraines;
obesity; depression; and anxiety (20 CFR 416.921 et
3. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that has significantly limited (or is expected to
significantly limit) the ability to perform basic
work-related activities for 12 consecutive months; therefore,
the claimant does not have a severe impairment or combination
of impairments. (20 CFR 416.921 et seq.).
4. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, since July 16, 2013, the date the
application was filed (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
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, “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