United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga
SHONTENIESHA R. WORD, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
K. LEE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Shonteniesha R. Word (“Plaintiff”), acting
pro se, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c) seeking judicial review of
the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner” or “Defendant”)
denying her disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”). Each party has moved for judgment [Docs.
& 23], and this matter is now ripe. For the reasons
stated below: (1) Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment
[Doc. 21] will be DENIED; (2) the
Commissioner's motion for summary judgment [Doc. 23] will
be GRANTED; and (3) the decision of the
Commissioner will be AFFIRMED.
to the administrative record [Doc. 11 (“Tr.”)],
Plaintiff filed her application for DIB on March 22, 2016,
alleging disability beginning July 21, 2015. Plaintiff's
claims were denied initially and on reconsideration at the
agency level. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”), which was held
on December 5, 2017. On March 20, 2018, the ALJ found
Plaintiff was not under a disability as defined in the Social
Security Act at any time from the alleged onset date through
the date of the decision. The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff
timely filed the instant action.
Education and Employment Background
was born June 28, 1980, making her a “younger
individual age 18-49, ” at all relevant times. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1563(c). She graduated high school and
completed one year of college, and she is able to communicate
in English. She has past relevant work as a welder and a hand
packager, both of which are classified in the Dictionary of
Occupational Titles (“DOT”) as unskilled, medium
exertional level jobs.
Disability Report, Plaintiff alleged disability due to
hydronephrosis, urethral stricture, feelings of worthlessness
and guilt, self-esteem problems, severe pain, paranoia,
“appetite problems, ” “sleep problems,
” and restricted daily activities (Tr. 225). While
there is no need to summarize the medical records herein, the
relevant records have been reviewed and will be discussed
below if necessary.
hearing before the ALJ on December 5, 2017, Plaintiff and a
vocational expert (“VE”) testified. Plaintiff was
represented by an attorney at the hearing, although she is
not represented in the instant lawsuit. The Court has
carefully reviewed the transcript of the hearing (Tr. 28-72).
ELIGIBILITY AND THE ALJ'S FINDINGS
Social Security Act defines a disability as the
‘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.'”
Schmiedebusch v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 536
Fed.Appx. 637, 646 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A)); see also Parks v. Soc. Sec. Admin.,
413 Fed.Appx. 856, 862 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(A)). A claimant is disabled “only if
his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such
severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work,
but cannot, considering his age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy.”
Parks, 413 Fed.Appx. at 862 (quoting 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(2)(A)). The Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) determines eligibility for disability
benefits by following a five-step process. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i-v). The five-step process provides:
1) If the claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, the
claimant is not disabled.
2) If the claimant does not have a severe medically
determinable physical or mental impairment-i.e., an
impairment that significantly limits his or her physical or
mental ability to do basic work activities-the claimant is
3) If the claimant has a severe impairment(s) that meets or
equals one of the listings in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the
regulations and meets the duration requirement, the claimant
4) If the claimant's impairment does not prevent him or
her from doing his or her past relevant work, the claimant is
5) If the claimant can make an adjustment to other work, the
claimant is not disabled.
Rabbers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 582 F.3d 647,
652 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted). The claimant bears
the burden to show the extent of his impairments, but at step
five, the Commissioner bears the burden to show that,
notwithstanding those impairments, there are jobs the
claimant is capable of performing. See Ealy v. Comm'r
of Soc. Sec., 594 F.3d 504, 512-13 (6th Cir. 2010)
The ALJ's Findings
found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements through
September 30, 2019. At step one of the five-step process, the
ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since her alleged onset date. At step two, the ALJ
found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: (1)
urinary tract disorder with chronic traumatic deformity, (2)
hydronephrosis, and (3) major depressive disorder with
psychosis. The ALJ also found Plaintiff was obese, but that
this condition caused no more than minimal limitations to
Plaintiff's ability to perform basic work activities and
was therefore a non-severe impairment. At step three, the ALJ
found Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1.
the ALJ found Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20
C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), with the following
• She can lift and carry a maximum of 15 pounds
occasionally and up to 10 pounds frequently.
• She can sit, with normal breaks, for about 6 hours out
of an 8-hour workday; and stand or walk for about 4 hours out
of an 8-hour workday.
• Pushing or pulling with the bilateral upper
extremities is limited to frequent, and no operation of foot
controls with ...