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 an order of reference [Doc.
20], for decision and entry of a final 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 21] with a supporting
memorandum [Docs. 17 and 22].
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. McCormick v. Sec. of
Health & Human Servs., 861 F.2d 998, 1001 (6th Cir.
1988). “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 (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.
LeMaster v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 802
F.2d 839, 841 (6th Cir. 1986). 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. Sec. 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.
Sequential Evaluation Process
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
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 thirty-eight years old and was a younger person under the
applicable regulations at the time she filed her application
(Tr. 30, 133). Plaintiff's prior relevant work experience
includes work as a waitress, cook, and a check cashier (Tr.
40). She alleges a disability onset of June 27, 2011, due to
depression, diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary
disorder (COPD), high blood pressure, and obesity (Tr. 167).
She met the insured status requirement through September 30,
2016 (Tr. 14). Accordingly, she must establish disability on
or before that date in order to be entitled benefits. 20
C.F.R. § 404.130.
December 2015, an ALJ conducted an evidentiary hearing;
Beckett and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified.
The ALJ found Plaintiff was not disabled and denied benefits.
The appeals council denied a review request (Tr. 1).
Plaintiff now appeals to this Court.