United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
HYMELIA L. CRAIG
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
Honorable Aleta A. Trauger, District Judge.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Barbara D. Holmes, United States Magistrate Judge.
filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g)
to obtain judicial review of the final decision of the Social
Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying
Plaintiff's claim for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) as provided under Title II of the Social
Security Act (“the Act”). The case is currently
pending on Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the
administrative record. (Docket No. 17). Defendant has filed a
response (Docket No. 19) and Plaintiff has filed a subsequent
reply (Docket Entry No. 20) to Defendant's response.
review of the administrative record as a whole and
consideration of the parties' filings, the Court
recommends that Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the
administrative record (Docket Entry No. 17) be DENIED.
filed an application for DIB on August 13, 2015. See
Transcript of the Administrative Record, Docket Entry No. 15,
at 57. She alleged a disability onset date of May
15, 2015. Id. Plaintiff asserted that she was unable
to work because of back pain. AR 57-58.
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. AR
74-76, 81-82. Pursuant to her request for a hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”), Plaintiff
appeared with counsel and testified at a hearing before ALJ
David A. Ettinger on April 5, 2018. AR 31-49. The ALJ
subsequently denied the claim on July 12, 2017. AR 12-27. The
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of
the ALJ's decision on February 20, 2018, AR 1-6, thereby
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. This civil action was thereafter timely filed,
and the Court has jurisdiction. See 42 U.S.C. §
THE ALJ FINDINGS
issued an unfavorable decision and made the following
enumerated findings based upon the record:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2020.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since May 15, 2015, the alleged onset date. (20 CFR
404.1571 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: lumbar
degenerative disc disease; degenerative joint disease right
knee; and bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome (20 CFR
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, and 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find
that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a)
except she cannot climb ladders; cannot more than
occasionally climb stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or
crawl; and is limited to jobs, which allow a worker to stand
for up to five minutes after sitting 90 minutes.
6. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work
as an administrative assistant. This work does not require
the performance of work-related activities precluded by the
claimant's residual functional capacity (20 CFR
7. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from May 15, 2015, through the
date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(f)).
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
Standard of Review
determination of disability under the Act is an
administrative decision. The only questions before this Court
upon judicial review are (i) whether the decision of the
Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence, and (ii)
whether the Commissioner made legal errors in the process of
reaching the decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420,
28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971) (adopting and defining substantial
evidence standard in context of Social Security cases);
Kyle v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 609 F.3d 847, 854
(6th Cir. 2010). The Commissioner's decision must be
affirmed if it is supported by substantial evidence,
“even if there is substantial evidence in the record
that would have supported an opposite conclusion.”
Blakley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399,
406 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Key v. Callahan, 109
F.3d 270, 273 (6th Cir. 1997)); Jones v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 477 (6th Cir. 2003); Her v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 203 F.3d 388, 389-90 (6th Cir.
evidence is defined as “more than a mere
scintilla” and “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401
(quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197,
229, 59 S.Ct. 206, 83 L.Ed. 126 (1938)); Rogers v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir.
2007); LeMaster v. Weinberger, 533 F.2d 337, 339
(6th Cir. 1976) (quoting Sixth Circuit opinions adopting
language substantially similar to that in
Court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
limited to the record made in the administrative hearing
process. Jones v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 945 F.2d 1365, 1369 (6th Cir. 1991). A reviewing
court may not try the case de novo, resolve conflicts in
evidence, or decide questions of credibility. See, e.g.,
Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984)
(citing Myers v. Richardson, 471 F.2d 1265, 1268
(6th Cir. 1972)). The Court must accept the ALJ's
explicit findings and determination unless the record as a
whole is without substantial evidence to support the
ALJ's determination. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See,
e.g., Houston v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.,
736 F.2d 365, 366 (6th Cir. 1984).
Determining Disability at the Administrative Level
claimant has the ultimate burden of establishing an
entitlement to benefits by proving her “inability to
engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any
medically determinable physical or mental impairment which
can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can
be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 432(d)(1)(A). The asserted
impairment(s) must be demonstrated by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. See
42 U.S.C. §§ 432(d)(3) and 1382c(a)(3)(D); 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1512(a), (c), and 404.1513(d).
“Substantial gainful activity” not only includes
previous work performed by the claimant, but also,
considering the claimant's age, education, and work
experience, any other relevant work that exists in the
national economy in ...