United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division
HEATHER E. HICKERSON, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
ORDER AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE
THOMAS ANDERSON, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Heather E. Hickerson filed this action to obtain judicial
review of Defendant Commissioner's final decision denying
her application for disability benefits under Title II and
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act (“Act”). Plaintiff's
applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration
by the Social Security Administration. Plaintiff then
requested a hearing before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”), which was held on March 15, 2016. On
April 26, 2016, the ALJ denied the claim. The Appeals Council
subsequently denied the request for review. Thus, the
decision of the ALJ became the Commissioner's final
decision. For the reasons set forth below, the decision of
the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a claimant may obtain judicial
review of any final decision made by the Commissioner after a
hearing to which he was a party. “The court shall have
the power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the
record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or
without remanding the cause for a rehearing.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). The Court's review is limited to
determining whether there is substantial evidence to support
the Commissioner's decision and whether the correct legal
standards were applied. Key v. Callahan, 109 F.3d
270, 273 (6th Cir. 1997); see also Landsaw v. Sec'y
of Health & Human Servs, 803 F.2d 211, 213 (6th Cir.
evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Buxton v. Halter, 246 F.3d 762, 772 (6th Cir. 2001)
(quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389
(1971)). It is “more than a mere scintilla of evidence,
but less than a preponderance.” Bell v. Comm'r
of Soc. Sec., 105 F.3d 244, 245 (6th Cir. 1996) (citing
Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229
(1938)). The Commissioner, not the Court, is charged with the
duty to weigh the evidence, to make credibility
determinations and resolve material conflicts in the
testimony and to decide the case accordingly. Walters v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir.
1997); Crum v. Sullivan, 921 F.2d 642, 644 (6th Cir.
1990); Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th
Cir. 1984). When substantial evidence supports the
Commissioner's determination, it is conclusive, even if
substantial evidence also supports the opposite conclusion.
Warner v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 375 F.3d 387, 390
(6th Cir. 2004).
was born on September 29, 1989, and has a high school
education. Her previous employment consisted of working in
fast food restaurants, at convenience stores as a clerk, and
as a dry cleaner. She also cleaned houses. Plaintiff states
that she quit this last job on September 15, 2011, as a
result of back pain after being injured. She alleges
disability beginning November 20, 2012, due to degenerative
disc disease of the thoracic, lumbar, and intervertebral
discs with pain and radiculopathy, anxiety and depression,
headaches, and morbid obesity. She also allegedly suffers
with asthma, arthritis, stomach aches, sleep loss, gastritis,
and pain from her back, hips, shoulders, and legs.
made the following findings: (1) Plaintiff has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the amended alleged onset
date and met the insured status requirements of the Act
through March 31, 2016; (2) Plaintiff has severe impairments
of spine impairment and obesity; but she does not have
impairments, either alone or in combination, that meet or
equal the requirements of any listed impairment contained in
20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1 of the listing of
impairments; (3) Plaintiff retains the residual functional
capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1567(b) and § 416.967(b) except that standing and/or
walking is limited to four hours in an eight-hour workday;
she can occasionally climb ramps and stairs; she can never
climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; and she can occasionally
balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; (4) Plaintiff is
unable to perform her past relevant work; (5) Plaintiff was a
younger individual with a high school education on the
alleged onset date; (6) transferability of job skills is not
material to the determination of disability because using the
Medical-Vocational Rules (“the grids”) as a
framework supports a finding that Plaintiff is not disabled
whether or not she has transferable job skills; (7)
considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience,
and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist
in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
can perform, such as an envelope addresser and document
preparer; (8) Plaintiff was not under a disability as defined
in the Act at any time through the date of this
Social Security Act defines disability as the inability to
engage in substantial gainful activity. 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1). The claimant bears the ultimate burden of
establishing an entitlement to benefits. Born v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs, 923 F.2d 1168,
1173 (6th Cir. 1990). The initial burden of going forward is
on the claimant to show that he or she is disabled from
engaging in his or her former employment; the burden of going
forward then shifts to the Commissioner to demonstrate the
existence of available employment compatible with the
claimant's disability and background. Id.
Commissioner conducts the following, five-step analysis to
determine if an individual is disabled within the meaning of
1. An individual who is engaging in substantial gainful
activity will not be found to be disabled regardless of
2. An individual who does not have a severe impairment will
not be found to be disabled.
3. A finding of disability will be made without consideration
of vocational factors, if an individual is not working and is
suffering from a severe impairment which meets the duration
requirement and which meets or equals a listed impairment in
Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the regulations.
4. An individual who can perform work that he has done in the
past will not be found to be disabled.
5. If an individual cannot perform his or her past work,
other factors including age, education, past work experience
and residual functional capacity must be considered to