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 an order of reference under 28
U.S.C. § 636 [Doc. 15], for decision and entry of
judgment. Plaintiff's application for disability
insurance benefits was administratively denied following a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
[“ALJ”]. This is an action for judicial review of
the Commissioner's final decision, per 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). Each party filed a dispositive motion [Docs. 16 and
18] with a supporting memorandum [Docs. 17 and 19].
Standard of Review
sole function of this Court in making this review is to
determine whether the findings of the Commissioner are
supported by substantial evidence in the record.
McCormick v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs.,
861 F.2d 998, 1001 (6th Cir. 1988). “Substantial
evidence” is defined as evidence that a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support the challenged
conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389
(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 for the jury. Consolo
v. Federal Maritime Commission, 383 U.S. 607 (1966). The
Court may 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). Even if the reviewing court were to resolve
the factual issues differently, the Commissioner's
decision must stand if supported by substantial evidence.
Listenbee v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs.,
846 F.2d 345, 349 (6th Cir. 1988). Yet, even if supported by
substantial evidence, “a decision of the Commissioner
will not be upheld where the SSA 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).
Sequential Evaluation Process
applicable administrative regulations require the
Commissioner to utilize a five-step sequential evaluation
process for disability determinations. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4). Although a dispositive finding at any step
ends the ALJ's review, see Colvin v. Barnhart,
475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007), the complete sequential
review poses five questions:
1. Is 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 RFC, can he or she perform
his or her past relevant work?
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). A claimant bears the
ultimate burden of establishing disability under the Social
Security Act's definition. Key v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 109 F.3d 270, 274 (6th Cir. 1997). The burden
shifts to the Commissioner with respect to the fifth step if
the claimant satisfies the first four steps of the process.
See Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469,
474 (6th Cir. 2003).
Background and Procedural History
was born in 1991 and was a younger person under the
applicable regulations at the time he filed his application
(Tr. 26). Plaintiff's prior relevant work experience
includes fast food cook (DOT 313.374-010, light, unskilled),
fast food worker (DOT 311.472-010, light, unskilled), diesel
mechanic (DOT 625.281-010, heavy, skilled), fork lift
operator (DOT 921.683-050, medium, semi-skilled), and patient
care attendant (DOT 354.377-014, medium, semi-skilled) (Tr.
16-17). He alleges that he became disabled on September 9,
2013, due to epilepsy and possible grand mal seizures (Tr.
27). He met the insured status requirement through June 30,
2017 (Tr. 12). Accordingly, he must establish disability on
or before that date in order to be entitled to benefits. 20
C.F.R. § 404.130.
2015, an ALJ conducted an evidentiary hearing at which
Plaintiff and a vocational expert (“VE”)
testified. The ALJ found Plaintiff was not disabled under the
Act and denied benefits. The appeals council ...