United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville
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 application for disability insurance benefits
and supplemental security income (“SSI”) under
Titles II and XVI, of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-434, 1381-1385, 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. 21 & 24] with a supporting
memorandum [Docs. 22 & 25]. The matter is now ripe for
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. Sec. 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. Fed. Maritime Comm'n, 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. 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. 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 1975, a younger person under the guidelines, at
the time she alleged disability (Doc. 13, Transcript p. 30)
(reference to “Tr” and the page denote the
administrative record). In a Disability Report, she alleged
she was disabled from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
(COPD), asthma, panic disorder, memory loss, muscle weakness,
pain, tremors, autoimmune disorder, high blood pressure,
migraines, intermittent irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and
extreme fatigue (Tr. 222). Plaintiff has at least a high
school education and is able to communicate in English (Tr.
30). Plaintiff reported that she worked as a LPN from 2000 to
2011, but was fired due to poor job performance (Tr. 41,