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 the
consent of the parties and by order of reference [Doc. 16]
for disposition and entry of a final judgment.
Plaintiff's Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) application under the Social Security
Act, Title XVI, was 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). Each party filed a dispositive
motion [Docs. 11 & 14] with a supporting memorandum
[Docs. 12 & 15].
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 the
Court were to resolve factual issues differently, the
Commissioner's 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). The Court
may consider any evidence in the record regardless of whether
it has been cited by the ALJ. Heston v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d. 528, 535 (6th Cir. 2001).
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 an 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
Murray (“Murray”) filed DIB and SSI applications
on November 15, 2013, alleging impairments she believed to be
disabling. She later withdrew her DIB application and revised
her alleged onset date to coincide with her application
filing. (Doc. 9, Transcript p. 18) (reference to
“Tr” and the page denote the administrative
record). Murray was insured through March 31, 1995 (Tr. 33).
Her claims were initially denied in January 2014 and upon
reconsideration in May 2014. (Tr. 17). An ALJ conducted a
hearing on October 16, 2015. (Tr. 33-45).
followed the five-step analysis in evaluating the claims. The
ALJ found Murray had severe medical impairments, but was not
disabled. The findings were:
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since November 15, 2013, the alleged onset date (20
CFR 416.971 et seq.);
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease; osteoarthritis; and obesity (20
3. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926);
4. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform medium work as defined in 20
CFR 416.967(c) except no climbing ropes, ladders, or
scaffolds; can perform ...