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 order of reference [Doc. 12]
for disposition and entry of a final judgment.
Plaintiff's Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) application under the Social Security
Act, Title II, was denied after a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge. This action is for judicial review
of the Commissioner's final decision per 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). Each party has filed a dispositive motion [Docs. 13
& 15] and supporting memorandum [Docs. 14 & 16].
APPLICABLE LAW - STANDARD OF REVIEW
review of the Commissioner's findings is narrow. The
Court is confined to determining (1) whether substantial
evidence supported the factual findings of the Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) and (2) whether the
Commissioner conformed to the relevant legal standards. 42
U.S.C. § 405(g); see Brainard v. Sec'y of Health
& Human Servs., 889 F.2d 679, 681 (6th Cir. 1989).
“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, 401 (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. LeMaster v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 802 F.2d 839,
841 (6th Cir. 1986). A court may not try the case de
novo, resolve conflicts in the evidence, or decide
credibility issues. Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383,
387 (6th Cir. 1984). Even if the Court were to resolve
factual issues differently, the Commissioner's decision
must stand if substantial evidence supports it. Listenbee
v. Sec'y of Health & Human Services, 846 F.2d
345, 349 (6th Cir. 1988). But, a decision supported by
substantial evidence “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).
claimant must be under a “disability” as defined
by the Act to be eligible for benefits.
“Disability” includes physical and mental
impairments that are “medically determinable” and
so severe as to prevent the claimant from (1) performing her
past job and (2) engaging in “substantial gainful
activity” that is available in the regional or national
economies. 42 U.S.C. § 423(a).
five-step sequential evaluation applies in disability
determinations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. Review ends with a
dispositive finding at any step. See Colvin v.
Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007). The
complete review poses five questions:
1. Has 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 [Residual Functional
Capacity], can he or she perform his or her past relevant
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).
claimant has the burden to establish entitlement to benefits
by proving the existence of a disability under 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(A). See Boyes v. Sec'y of Health
& Human Servs., 46 F.3d 510, 512 (6th Cir. 1994).
The Commissioner has the burden to establish the
claimant's ability to work at step five. Moon v.
Sullivan, 923 F.2d 1175, 1181 (6th Cir. 1990). The Court
may consider any evidence in the record regardless of whether
it was cited by the ALJ. Heston v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 245 F.3d. 528, 535 (6th Cir. 2001).
PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL OVERVIEW
Angeline Brooks-Harris (“Brooks-Harris”) has
twice applied for Title II DIB benefits. Her first
application was submitted in January 2013 (Doc. 6, Transcript
p. 53) (reference to “Tr” and the page denote the
administrative record). She alleged an onset date of August
26, 2012 (Id.). On this application, the ALJ found
Brooks-Harris was not disabled from the onset date through
the date of his decision on July 18, 2014 (Tr. 53). She
unsuccessfully appealed the decision to this Court. See
Brooks-Harris v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 2:15-CV-252
(E.D. Tenn. July 28, 2016)..
her first appeal to this Court was pending, Brooks-Harris
filed her second application on August 11, 2015, alleging
disability due to the same general conditions (Tr.15). She
alleged an onset date of July 19, 2014. This claim was
initially denied in November 2015 and upon reconsideration in
March 2016 (Id.). An ALJ conducted a hearing on
October 17, 2017 (Id.). Brooks-Harris and a
vocational expert (“VE”) testified (Tr. 32-49).
The ALJ found Brooks-Harris not disabled on December 27, 2017
(Tr. 15). The decision is before this Court for review.
concluded Brooks-Harris, a claimant with a high school
education who was closely approaching advanced age, met the
insured status requirements through December 31, 2018, and
had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July
2014 (Tr. 17). He found her obesity, residuals of breast
cancer treatment, residuals of right hand and left wrist
fractures, and cervicalgia were severe but determined her
mental conditions were not (Id.). The ALJ found
Brooks-Harris does not have an impairment or combination of