United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
ANGELA D. HOPE, Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL,Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b), Rule 73 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and
the consent of the parties [Doc. 15].
before the Court is Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary
Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 13 & 13-1] and
Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum
in Support [Docs. 16 & 17]. Angela D. Hope
(“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the
decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“the
ALJ”), the final decision of Defendant Andrew M. Saul
(“the Commissioner”). For the reasons that
follow, the Court will DENY
Plaintiff’s motion and GRANT the
December 5, 2013, Plaintiff protectively filed an application
for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income benefits pursuant to Titles II and XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq. and
1381 et seq., claiming a period of disability that
began on May 15, 2013. [Tr. 11, 258–69]. After her
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration,
Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ. [Tr.
186–88]. A hearing was held on February 22, 2017. [Tr.
48–100]. On May 3, 2017, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
was not disabled. [Tr. 11–22]. The Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff’s request for review on February 3,
2018 [Tr. 1–6], making the ALJ’s decision the
final decision of the Commissioner.
exhausted her administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed a
Complaint with this Court on March 22, 2018, seeking judicial
review of the Commissioner’s final decision under
Section 405(g) of the Social Security Act. [Doc. 1]. The
parties have filed competing dispositive motions, and this
matter is now ripe for adjudication.
made the following findings:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through June 30, 2017.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since May 15, 2013, the alleged onset date (20 CFR
404.1571 et seq. and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: aortic
valve defects, status-post replacement, chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease (COPD), thyroid enlargement, lung
granulomas, lumbar disc bulging, depression, and anxiety (20
CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
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, 404.1526,
416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except she should avoid
concentrated exposure to extreme cold and extreme heat with
no concentrated exposure to environmental irritants such as
fumes, odors, dusts, gases, poorly ventilated areas, and
chemical fumes. She could perform simple, routine, repetitive
tasks performed in a work environment free of fast-paced
work, involving only simple work-related decisions and few if
any workplace changes.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on December 1, 1972, and was 40
years old, which is defined as a younger individual age
18-49, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the
determination of disability because using the
Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding
that the claimant is “not disabled,” whether or
not the claimant has transferrable job skills (See SSR 82-41
and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. Considering the claimant’s age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 404.1569, 404.1569(a),
416.969, and 416.969(a)).
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from May 15, 2013, through the
date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
reviewing the Commissioner’s determination of whether
an individual is disabled pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), the Court is limited to determining whether the
ALJ’s decision was reached through application of the
correct legal standards and in accordance with the procedure
mandated by the regulations and rulings promulgated by the
Commissioner, and whether the ALJ’s findings are
supported by substantial evidence. Blakley v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 405 (6th Cir.
2009) (citation omitted); Wilson v. Comm’r of Soc.
Sec., 378 F.3d 541, 544 (6th Cir. 2004).
evidence is “more than a scintilla of evidence but less
than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Cutlip v. Sec’y of Health &
Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994)
(citations omitted). It is immaterial whether the record may
also possess substantial evidence to support a different
conclusion from that reached by the ALJ, or whether the
reviewing judge may have decided the case differently.
Crisp v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs.,
790 F.2d 450, 453 n.4 (6th Cir. 1986). The substantial
evidence standard is intended to create a “‘zone
of choice’ within which the Commissioner can act,
without the fear of court interference.” Buxton v.
Halter, 246 F.3d 762, 773 (6th Cir. 2001) (quoting
Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986)).
Therefore, the Court will 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) (citation omitted).
review, the plaintiff “bears the burden of proving his
entitlement to benefits.” Boyes v. Sec’y. of
Health & Human Servs., 46 F.3d 510, 512 (6th Cir.
1994) (citation omitted).
means an individual cannot “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. §§ 423(d)(1)(A) and 1382c(a)(3)(A). An
individual will only be considered disabled:
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, regardless of
whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he
lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or
whether he would be hired if he applied for work.
§§ 423(d)(2)(A) and 1382c(a)(3)(B).
is evaluated pursuant to a five-step analysis summarized as
1. If claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, he is
2. If claimant is not doing substantial gainful activity, his
impairment must be severe before he can be ...