United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
NORMA L. VALLON, Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL,  Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
C. Poplin United States Magistrate Judge.
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. 21]. Now before the Court
are Plaintiff’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 22 & 23] and
Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum
in Support [Docs. 24 & 25]. Norma L. Vallon
(“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 GRANT IN PART
Plaintiff’s motion and DENY the
28, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for disability
insurance benefits and disabled widow’s benefits
pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§ 401 et seq., alleging disability beginning on
May 25, 2013. [Tr. 19, 191–93]. After her application
was denied initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff
requested a hearing before an ALJ. [Tr. 158]. A hearing was
held on October 7, 2015. [Tr. 32–96]. On November 27,
2015, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. [Tr.
19–28]. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s
request for review on November 7, 2016 [Tr. 1–6],
making the ALJ’s decision the final decision of the
exhausted her administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed a
Complaint with this Court on December 22, 2016, seeking
judicial review of the Commissioner’s final decision
under Section 405(g) of the Social Security Act. [Doc. 1]. On
July 10, 2017, the Court issued a show cause order for
Plaintiff’s failure to show proof of service [Doc. 6],
and on July 18, 2017, Magistrate Judge Shirley issued a
Report and Recommendation recommending that Plaintiff’s
Complaint be dismissed without prejudice [Doc. 7]. Plaintiff
subsequently submitted proof of service and an objection to
the Report and Recommendation [Docs. 8–9], and the
Court rejected the Report and Recommendation and ordered the
Commissioner to respond the Complaint [Doc. 11]. 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 December 31, 2019.
2. It was previously found that the claimant is the unmarried
widow of the deceased insured worker and has attained the age
of 50. The claimant met the non-disability requirements for
disabled widow’s benefits set forth in section 202(e)
of the Social Security Act.
3. The prescribed period ended on March 31, 2015.
4. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since May 25, 2013, the alleged onset date (20 CFR
404.1571 et seq.).
5. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
arthritis, lymphedema, affective disorders, and personality
disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
6. 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).
7. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find
that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except
she could occasionally climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds
and frequently climb ramps and stairs. Work is limited to
simple, routine, repetitive tasks; performed in a work
environment free of fast-paced production requirements;
involving only simple work-related decisions; and few, if
any, workplace changes. She could have occasional interaction
with the public and coworkers. There should be no complex
written or oral communication.
8. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work
as a fast food worker or cleaner. This work does not require
the performance of work-related activities by the
claimant’s residual functional capacity (20 CFR
9. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from May 25, 2013, through the
date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(f)).
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 ...