United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Northeastern Division
A. TRAUGER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Sandra Kaye Melton brings this action under 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking judicial review
of the Social Security Administration's denial of her
application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act
and supplemental security income (“SSI”) under
Title XVI of the Social Security Act.
February 20, 2018, the magistrate judge issued a Report and
Recommendation (“R&R”) (Doc. No. 20),
recommending that the decision of the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) be affirmed and that the
plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Administrative
Record (Doc. No. 15) be denied. The plaintiff has filed
timely Objections (Doc. No. 21), to which the SSA has
responded (Doc. No. 22). For the reasons discussed herein,
the court will overrule the Objections, accept and adopt the
R&R, deny the plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the
Administrative Record, and affirm the SSA's decision.
Sandra Kaye Melton filed applications for DIB and SSI on
November 1, 2012, alleging disability beginning on June 30,
2005 due to arthritis, stomach problems, hearing problems,
and heart problems. (Administrative Record (“AR”)
265,  Doc. No. 12.) These applications were
denied initially (AR 87-88) and on reconsideration (AR
120-21). After a hearing, ALJ James Dixon issued an
unfavorable decision on March 26, 2015. (AR 16-29.) The ALJ
also denied Melton's request to amend her alleged onset
date to January 1, 2013 as moot, since he found that Melton
was not disabled for any of the period from June 30, 2005 to
the date of the decision. (AR 21, 41.)
accepted as a factual matter that Melton suffered from severe
impairments, including arthritis and hearing loss, but that
these impairments did meet or equal the severity of a listed
impairment. (AR 24-25.) The ALJ found that Melton had the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
medium work with some limitations and, more specifically,
that she had the ability to lift and carry fifty pounds
occasionally and twenty-five pounds frequently, to stand or
walk six to eight hours in an eight-hour workday, to
frequently climb ramps and stairs, bend, stoop, kneel, squat,
crouch, and crawl, and to occasionally climb ladders, ropes,
and scaffolds. (AR 25.) Although the plaintiff had worked
part-time for a number of years and was still working
part-time as of the date of the hearing, the ALJ found that
the work did not constitute substantial gainful employment
and, therefore, that the plaintiff had no past relevant work.
Nonetheless, based on the RFC and the testimony of a
vocational expert (“VE”) at the hearing, the ALJ
ultimately concluded that Melton was able to perform other
work that existed in the national economy, including the jobs
of hand packer, machine cleaner, and laundry laborer, and,
therefore, that she was not disabled. (AR 28.)
Appeals Council denied review on March 4, 2016 (AR 1-4),
making the ALJ's decision the final Agency decision.
plaintiff filed her Complaint initiating this action on May
5, 2016. (Doc. No. 1.) The SSA filed a timely Answer (Doc.
No. 11), denying liability, and a complete copy of the
Administrative Record (Doc. No. 12). On October 5, 2016, the
plaintiff filed her Motion for Judgment on the Administrative
Record and supporting Brief (Doc. Nos. 15. 16), which the SSA
opposed (Doc. No. 18). On February 20, 2018, the magistrate
judge issued her R&R (Doc. No. 20), recommending that the
plaintiff's motion be denied and that the SSA's
decision be affirmed.
plaintiff filed Objections to the R&R (Doc. No. 21); the
SSA has filed a Response in opposition to the Objections
(Doc. No. 22).
Standard of Review
magistrate judge issues a report and recommendation regarding
a dispositive pretrial matter, the district court must review
de novo any portion of the report and recommendation
to which a proper objection is made. Fed.R.Civ.P.
72(b)(1)(C); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); United States
v. Curtis, 237 F.3d 598, 603 (6th Cir. 2001); Massey
v. City of Ferndale, 7 F.3d 506, 510 (6th Cir. 1993).
Objections must be specific; a general objection to the
R&R is not sufficient and may result in waiver of further
review. Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 380 (6th Cir.
1995). In conducting its review of the objections, the
district court “may accept, reject, or modify the
recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return
the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.”
Social Security cases under Title II or Title XIV, the
Commissioner determines whether a claimant is disabled within
the meaning of the Social Security Act and, as such, entitled
to benefits. 42 U.S.C. §§ 1383(c), 405(h). The
court's review of the decision of an administrative law
judge (“ALJ”) is limited to a determination of
whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards and
whether the findings of the ALJ are supported by substantial
evidence. Miller v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 811
F.3d 825, 833 (6th Cir. 2016) (quoting Blakley v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 405 (6th Cir.
2009)); see 42 U.S.C. § 405 (g) (2012)
(“The findings of the Commissioner of Social Security
as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall
be conclusive.”). The substantial evidence standard is
met if a “reasonable mind might accept the relevant
evidence as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Warner v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 375 F.3d 387, 390
(6th Cir. 2004) (internal citations omitted). “The
substantial evidence standard . . . presupposes that there is
a zone of choice within which the decision makers can go
either way, without interference by the courts.”
Blakley, 581 F.3d at 406 (quoting Mullen v.
Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986)).
“Therefore, if substantial evidence supports an
ALJ's decision, the court defers to that finding,
‘even if there is substantial evidence in the record
that would have supported an opposite conclusion.'”
Id. (quoting Key v. Callahan, 109 F.3d 270,
273 (6th Cir. 1997)).
the ALJ did not provide a complete summary of the evidence in
the record in the R&R, the court incorporates here that
portion of the statement of facts set forth in the
plaintiff's Memorandum in Support of Motion for Judgment
on the Administrative Record that is relevant to the
Melton was born in 1963, making her 41 years old at the
original alleged onset date, 49 years old at the filing date
and the amended onset date, and 51 years old at the date of
the ALJ's decision. T 21, 27, 29, 243. Melton reported
obtaining her GED with a history of special education when in