Minton v. Social Security Administration, Commissioner of (TWP1)
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION as set forth in following order. Signed by Magistrate Judge H Bruce Guyton on 9/11/17. (ABF)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
DEANNA W. MINTON,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,1
Acting Commissioner of Social Security,
This case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), Rule 72(b) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the consent of the parties [Doc. 15]. Now before the Court
is the Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 10 & 11]
and the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 12 &
13]. Deanna W. Minton (“the Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the decision of the Administrative
Law Judge (“the ALJ”), the final decision of the Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting
Commissioner of Social Security (“the Commissioner”). For the reasons that follow, the Court
will DENY the Plaintiff’s motion, and GRANT the Commissioner’s motion.
On October 17, 2012 the Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits,
claiming a period of disability which began February 1, 2008. [Tr. 129-36]. After her application
was denied initially and upon reconsideration, the Plaintiff requested a hearing. [Tr. 85]. During
During the pendency of this case, Nancy A. Berryhill replaced Acting Commissioner
Carolyn W. Colvin. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25(d), Nancy A. Berryhill is
substituted as the Defendant in this case.
the hearing, the Plaintiff amended her alleged onset date to September 1, 2012. [Tr. 9, 30-31]. On
May 5, 2015, following a hearing, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff was “not disabled.” [Tr. 6-25].
The Appeals Council denied the Plaintiff’s request for review [Tr. 1-3], and the ALJ’s decision
became the final decision of the Commissioner.
Having exhausted her administrative remedies, the Plaintiff filed a Complaint with this
Court on July 22, 2016, 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.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
When 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).
Substantial 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).
On 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).
Disability is evaluated pursuant to a five-step analysis summarized as follows:
1. If claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, he is not disabled.
2. If claimant is not doing substantial gainful activity, his
impairment must be severe before he can be found to be disabled.
3. If claimant is not doing substantial gainful activity and is
suffering from a severe impairment that has lasted or is expected to
last for a continuous period of at least twelve months, and his
impairment meets or equals a listed impairment, claimant is
presumed disabled without further inquiry.
4. If claimant’s impairment does not prevent him from doing his
past relevant work, he is not disabled.
5. Even if claimant’s impairment does prevent him from doing his
past relevant work, if other work exists in the national economy that
accommodates his residual functional capacity (“RFC”) and
vocational factors (age, education, skills, etc.), he is not disabled.
Walters v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 529 (6th Cir. 1997) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520).
The claimant bears the burden of proof at the first four steps. Id. The burden shifts to the
Commissioner at step five. Id. At the fifth step, the Commissioner must prove that there is work
available in the national economy that the claimant could perform. Her v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec.,
203 F.3d 388, 391 (6th Cir. 1999) (citing Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 (1987)).
On appeal, the Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ erred at step two by failing to find the
Plaintiff’s diagnosis of multifocal conduction block neuropathy was a severe impairment. [Doc.
11 at 5]. The Plaintiff also contends that the ALJ erred at step three, arguing that her impairment
meets Listings 1.02B and 11.14. [Id. at 5-6]. Additionally, the Plaintiff submits that the ALJ’s
RFC determination is not supported by substantial evidence, because the ALJ did not properly
weigh the medical opinion of the Plaintiff’s treating physician, Darrell Thomas, M.D., or the
Plaintiff’s subjective allegations. [Id. at 6-8]. As a result of the ALJ’s failure to properly assess
the Plaintiff’s RFC, the Plaintiff further contends that the ALJ’s finding at step four—that the
Plaintiff has past relevant work she can perform—is likewise flawed. [Id. at 8-9]. The Court will
address each alleged error in turn.
The Plaintiff contends that her diagnosis of multifocal conduction block neuropathy is a
severe impairment that the ALJ did not properly consider. [Doc. 11 at 5]. In support of her
argument, the Plaintiff cites to treatment records in which Dr. Thomas diagnosed her with the
condition in November 2013 and recommended monthly intravenous immunoglobulin (“IVIG”)
infusion treatments. [Id. at 5 (citing Tr. 507)].
At step two, “the ALJ must find that the claimant has a severe impairment or impairments”
to be found disabled. Farris v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 773 F.2d 85, 88 (6th Cir. 1985).
To be severe, an impairment or combination of impairments must “significantly limit your
physical or mental ability to do basic work activities.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). Step two has been
described as “a de minimis hurdle,” Higgs v. Brown, 880 F.2d 860, 862 (6th Cir. 1988), and serves
to screen out groundless claims, Farris, 773 F.2d at 89.
It is well settled that the ALJ’s failure to identify some impairments as “severe” is harmless
where the ALJ continues the disability determination and considers all impairments, both severe
and non-severe at subsequent steps. See Fisk v. Astrue, 253 F. App’x 580, 583 (6th Cir. 2007)
(“And when an ALJ considers all of a claimant’s impairments in the remaining steps of the
disability determination, an ALJ’s failure to find additional severe impairments at step two ‘[does]
not constitute reversible error.’”) (quoting Maziarz v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 837 F.2d
240, 244 (6th Cir.1987)); Pompa v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 73 F. App’x 801, 803 (6th Cir. 2003)
(“Because the ALJ found that Pompa had a severe impairment at step two of the analysis, the
question of whether the ALJ characterized any other alleged impairment as severe or not severe is
of little consequence.”).
Here, the Court finds that the Plaintiff has not met her burden in demonstrating that her
multifocal conduction block neuropathy is a severe impairment. The Plaintiff essentially cites to
her diagnosis as evidence of a severe impairment. A diagnosis alone, however, says nothing about
the severity of a condition. Higgs, 880 F.2d at 863. Moreover, the ALJ continued the disability
determination and properly considered her impairment at subsequent steps, specifically noting Dr.
Thomas’s diagnosis, IVIG infusion treatments, and the positive results of her treatment. [Tr. 1617]. Therefore, the Court finds that the ALJ did not commit reversible error at step two but
properly considered all of the Plaintiff’s impairments, both severe and non-severe, at subsequent
steps of the disability determination.
The Plaintiff challenges the ALJ’s step three finding that the Plaintiff does not have an
impairment that meets or medically equals the severity of a listed impairment in 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
At step three, a claimant may be found disabled if her impairment meets, or medically
equals, one of the listings in the Listing of Impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). “The
listings” as they are commonly referred, “are descriptions of various physical and mental illnesses
and abnormalities . . . defined in terms of several specific medical signs, symptoms, or laboratory
test results.” Sullivan v. Zebley, 493 U.S. 521, 529–30 (1990). Each listing specifies “the objective
medical and other findings needed to satisfy the criteria of that listing.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1525(c).
Only when an impairment satisfies all of the listing’s criteria will the impairment be found to be
of listing level severity. § 404.1525(d).
Here, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff’s alleged physical and mental impairments were not
of listing level severity. [Tr. 12]. The Plaintiff disagrees, arguing that her multifocal conduction
block neuropathy meets Listing 1.02, which addresses dysfunction of a major joint, and Listing
11.14, which addresses peripheral neuropathies. [Doc. 11 at 5-6]. The Court will examine each
listing and the Plaintiff’s arguments in turn.
Listing 1.02-Dysfunction of a Major Joint
The meet or equal this listing, a claimant must demonstrate evidence of the following:
1.02 Major dysfunction of a joint(s) (due to any cause):
Characterized by gross anatomical deformity (e.g.,
subluxation, contracture, bony or fibrous ankylosis,
instability) and chronic joint pain and stiffness with signs of
limitation of motion or other abnormal motion of the
affected joint(s), and findings on appropriate medically
acceptable imaging of joint space narrowing, bony
destruction, or ankylosis of the affected joint(s). With:
B. Involvement of one major peripheral joint in each upper
extremity (i.e., shoulder, elbow, or wrist-hand), resulting in
inability to perform fine and gross movements effectively,
as defined in 1.00B2c.
20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, § 1.02B. An “inability to perform fine and gross movements
effectively means an extreme loss of function of both upper extremities; i.e., an impairment(s) that
interferes very seriously with the individual’s ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete
activities” such as prepare simple meals, feed oneself, take care of personal hygiene, sort and
handle paper files, and place files in a filing cabinet at waist level. Id. § 1.00B2c.
Listing 11.14 requires “disorganization of motor function as described in 11.04B, in spite
of prescribed treatment.” Id. § 11.14. Listing 11.04B, in turn, states, “Significant and persistent
disorganization of motor function in two extremities, resulting in sustained disturbance of gross
and dexterous movements, or gait and station.” Id. at § 11.04B.
Arguing that she meets both listings, the Plaintiff cites to a history of complaints involving
numbness in her right foot and two of her fingers, as well as shoulder pain. [Doc. 11 at 6 (citing
Tr. 305)]. The Plaintiff also cites to her diagnosis of multifocal conduction block neuropathy.
[Doc. 11 at 6]. The Plaintiff states that her impairment required IVIG infusions treatment, the
effects of which wore off before her next scheduled treatment and also caused adverse side effects
such as fatigue and flu-like symptoms. [Id.]. The Court finds that the Plaintiff’s arguments fall
short of listing level severity.
In reaching this conclusion, the Court observes that the Plaintiff’s complaints of numbness
and shoulder pain does not demonstrate the requisite extreme loss of an ability to perform activities
as required by Listing 1.02B, or sustained disturbance of gross and dexterous movement as
required by Listing 11.14. Moreover, the treatment note documenting the Plaintiff’s complaints
predates the relevant time period under review. See Melius v. Colvin, No. CV 15–10820, 2016
WL 633953, at *4 (E.D. Mich. Feb. 9, 2016) (noting that records predating an alleged onset date
are generally of limited relevance), adopted by, No. 15–CV–10820, 2016 WL 1104467, at *1(E.D.
Mich. Mar. 22, 2016).
As to her diagnosis of multifocal conduction block neuropathy, the Plaintiff does not draw
any connection between her diagnosis or IVIG infusion treatments and the criteria of either listing.
The Court observes that treatment records from Dr. Thomas reflect IVIG infusion treatments were
highly successful in treating weakness and pain experienced by the Plaintiff in her arms and hands.
In fact, Dr. Thomas noted the Plaintiff was pain free, her strength was good, her fine motor skills
unaffected, she had few spasms in her feet, and she could perform activities she was previously
unable to do such as extend the fingers of her right hand, type, hold a phone, and apply makeup
with one hand. [Tr. 16-17, 503-04, 606-08]. In July 2014, the Plaintiff reported her condition was
stabilized with IVIG infusion treatments. [Tr. 606]. Moreover, the Plaintiff demonstrated 4/5 grip
strength of the left hand, 5/5 grip strength of the right hand, and normal station, gait, tandem walk,
heel and toe walk, single leg stand, and squatting during a February 2013 consultative examination
with Robert Blaine, M.D. [Tr. 467]. The Plaintiff’s allegations of adverse side effects caused by
her infusion treatments are also undermined by Dr. Thomas’s report that the Plaintiff did not have
any side effects. [Tr. 503].
Upon review of the foregoing evidence, the Court finds the Plaintiff has failed to
demonstrate an extreme loss in her ability to use her upper extremities to conduct daily living
activities as required by Listing 1.02B, or significant and persistent disorganization of motor
function in two extremities as required by Listing 11.14. Therefore, the Court finds that the ALJ
did not err at Step three. The Plaintiff’s allegations to the contrary are not well-taken.
The Plaintiff also contends that the ALJ’s RFC determination in not supported by
substantial evidence because the ALJ did not take into consideration the medical opinion rendered
by Dr. Thomas or the testimony of the Plaintiff, including photographs the Plaintiff supplied in
October 2014 that purport to show an inability to extend her fingers. [Doc. 11 at 6-7].
“The determination of a claimant’s [RFC] is a determination based upon the severity of his
medical and mental impairments.” Her v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 203 F.3d 388, 391 (6th Cir. 1999).
The RFC describes “the claimant’s residual abilities or what a claimant can do, not what maladies
a claimant suffers from—though the maladies will certainly inform the ALJ’s conclusion about
the claimant’s abilities.” Howard v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 276 F.3d 235, 240 (6th Cir. 2002).
Therefore, “[a] claimant’s severe impairment may or may not affect his or her functional capacity
to do work. One does not necessarily establish the other.” Griffeth v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 217
F. App’x 425, 429 (6th Cir. Feb. 9, 2007).
The ALJ is responsible for making an RFC determination after reviewing all the relevant
evidence in the record. Rudd v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., No. 12-6136, 2013 WL 4767020, at *8 (6th
Cir. Sept. 5, 2013). This includes a review of both medical and non-medical evidence. Poe v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 342 F. App’x 149, 157 (6th Cir. Aug. 18, 2009). A court will not disturb an
ALJ’s RFC determination so long as the finding is supported by substantial evidence. Jones v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 477 (6th Cir. 2003).
Opinion of Darrell Thomas, M.D.
On January 14, 2015, Plaintiff’s counsel submitted a questionnaire to Dr. Thomas that
asked if (1) the Plaintiff’s “medical conditions would require two (2) or more unscheduled breaks
during a typical 8 hour day,” and (2) if the Plaintiff’s “medical conditions would prevent her from
being on task more than 15% of a typical 8 hour day.” [Tr. 614]. Dr. Thomas responded in the
affirmative to both questions. [Id.].
The ALJ noted that “Dr. Thomas did not provide a written analysis of findings or give a
diagnosis relating to the claimant, but rather simply agreed to check boxes relating to two physical
limitations that were presented to him by the claimant’s representative.” [Tr. 17]. The ALJ
summarized the second limitation as “a very low threshold of work activity” because the limitation
assessed “essentially says that the claimant would not be able to perform regular work activity for
approximately 85% of the day, and would only be on task to perform work for 15% of the day due
to her medical impairments.” [Id.]. The ALJ opined that the limitation was excessive in light of
the evidence of record and inconsistent with findings made by consultative examiner, Dr. Blaine.
[Id.]. The ALJ assigned “little weight” to Dr. Thomas’s opinion, because it was not consistent
with his own treatment notes or with objective examination findings that showed normal grip
strength in the right hand and slightly reduced grip strength in the left hand. [Tr. 19]. The ALJ
found Dr. Thomas’s findings would be “purely speculative” in light of the evidence. [Id.].
Under the Social Security Act and its implementing regulations, if a treating physician’s
opinion as to the nature and severity of an impairment is (1) well-supported by medically
acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and (2) is not inconsistent with the other
substantial evidence in the case record, it must be given “controlling weight.” 20 C.F.R. §
404.1527(c)(2). When an opinion does not garner controlling weight, the appropriate weight to be
given to an opinion will be determined based upon the length of treatment, frequency of
examination, nature and extent of the treatment relationship, amount of relevant evidence that
supports the opinion, the opinion’s consistency with the record as a whole, the specialization of
the source, and other factors which tend to support or contradict the opinion. Id.
When an ALJ does not give a treating physician’s opinion controlling weight, the ALJ must
always give “good reasons” for the weight given to a treating source’s opinion in the decision. Id.
A decision denying benefits “must contain specific reasons for the weight given to the treating
source’s medical opinion, supported by evidence in the case record, and must be sufficiently
specific to make clear to any subsequent reviewers the weight the adjudicator gave to the treating
source’s medical opinion and the reasons for the weight.” Soc. Sec. Rul. 96-2p, 1996 WL 374188
at *5 (July 2, 1996). Nonetheless, the ultimate decision of disability rests with the ALJ. See King
v. Heckler, 742 F.2d 968, 973 (6th Cir. 1984); Sullenger v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 255 Fed. App’x
988, 992 (6th Cir. 2007).
Contrary to the Plaintiff’s assertions that the ALJ failed to consider Dr. Thomas’s opinion,
the Court finds that the ALJ properly addressed and weighed the opinion, citing “good reason” for
the weight assigned. The ALJ discussed Dr. Thomas’s treatment records, citing to positive results
following the Plaintiff’s IVIF infusion treatments. See Leeman v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 449 F.
App’x 496, 497 (6th Cir. 2011) (“ALJs may discount treating-physician opinions that are
inconsistent with substantial evidence in the record, like the physician’s own treatment notes.”).
Moreover, the ALJ observed that examinations findings made by Dr. Blaine undermined the
limitations assessed by Dr. Thomas. See Klusmeier v. Berryhill, No. 3:16-CV-339, 2017 WL
1066641, at *8 (E.D. Tenn. Mar. 21, 2017) (“[A] competing medical opinion from a non-treating
source identified with other substantial evidence in the record may constitute ‘good reason’ for
declining to give a treating source’s opinion greater deference.) (citing Warner v. Comm’r of Soc.
Sec., 375 F.3d 387, 391 (6th Cir. 2004)).
While the Plaintiff’s memorandum cites to symptoms of arm and hand weakens, numbness
and tingling in her hands and feet, tremors, and an inability to perform certain activities such as
typing or applying makeup [Doc. 11 at 6 (citing Tr. 509-10, 513)], these reported symptoms
occurred prior to the Plaintiff having undergone IVIF infusion treatments. Following treatment,
the Plaintiff’s reports and Dr. Thomas’s treatment notes do not mirror these earlier complaints.
The Plaintiff persists that the ALJ is required to “give more weight to the opinion of a treating
source.” [Id.]. To the contrary: “A treating physician’s opinion is normally entitled to substantial
deference, but the ALJ is not bound by that opinion. The treating physician’s opinion must be
supported by sufficient medical data.” Jones v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 477 (6th Cir.
2003) (citing Shelman v. Heckler, 821 F.2d 316, 321 (6th Cir. 1987); Harris v. Heckler, 756 F.2d
431, 435 (6th Cir. 1985)).
Here, the ALJ set forth a reasoned basis, supported by substantial
evidence, for the assignment of “little weight” to Dr. Thomas’s opinion. Therefore, the Court finds
that the ALJ satisfied the “good reason” requirement, and the Plaintiff’s arguments to the contrary
are without merit.
The Plaintiff further maintains that the RFC determination is not supported by substantial
evidence because the ALJ did not consider her testimony about how her condition physically
affects her ability to perform activities of daily living and ignored photographs supplied by the
Plaintiff that purport to show an inability to extend her fingers. [Doc. 11 at 7].
The Court finds that the ALJ, in fact, considered and addressed the Plaintiff’s subjective
allegations and the photographic evidence she submitted. The ALJ discussed the Plaintiff’s
testimony in detail, specifically noting the physical effects the Plaintiff claimed her impairment
had on her hands, fingers, and forearms. [Tr. 13-14]. The ALJ noted that the Plaintiff claimed her
impairment is so severe she has to hold a cup of coffee with both hands, she frequently drops
things, she has extreme trouble with her fine motor grip, she uses her left hand like a paw, her
hands shake, and she has problems with work-related activities such as completing tasks, keeping
pace, and has poor memory and concentration. [Id.]. The ALJ, however, found that the Plaintiff’s
testimony was not supported by the objective medical evidence of record. [Tr. 14-20]. In addition,
the ALJ found the Plaintiff’s allegation that she would be absent from work for seven days a month
following her IVIG infusion treatments unsubstantiated. [Tr. 19]. In this regard, the ALJ held the
record open after the hearing for her to submit supporting evidence by Dr. Thomas, but no further
evidence was submitted. [Id.]. The Court further observes that Dr. Thomas noted the Plaintiff did
not have any side effects from her IVIG infusion treatments and the Plaintiff did not voice any
Moreover, the ALJ observed that several treatment records merely
documented the Plaintiff’s self-report of worsening symptoms without supporting examination
findings, and the Plaintiff’s reported daily living activities further undermined the credibility of
her allegations. [Tr. 16, 19].
The ALJ also addressed the photographs of the Plaintiff’s hands, which the Plaintiff claims
show that she cannot open her hand, her extensor muscles are severely and permanently paralyzed,
her little finger on her left hand is the only functional finger, and some of her fingers on her right
hand suffer from partial paralysis. [Tr. 18]. The ALJ found, however, the Plaintiff’s allegations
were contradicted by Dr. Blaine’s examination findings which included 4/5 grip strength in the
Plaintiff’s left hand and 5/5 grip strength in her right hand. [Id.].
While the Plaintiff may disagree with the level of deference the ALJ gave to the Plaintiff’s
testimony and photographs, the Court finds the ALJ’s findings are nonetheless supported by
substantial evidence and must therefore be upheld. See Her v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 203 F.3d 388,
389–90 (6th Cir. 1999) (“Even if the evidence could also support another conclusion, the decision
of the [ALJ] must stand if the evidence could reasonably support the conclusion reached.”);
Walters, 127 F.3d at 531 (holding that an ALJ’s findings regarding credibility “are to be accorded
great weight and deference, particularly since an ALJ is charged with the duty of observing a
witness’s demeanor and credibility”).
Lastly, the Plaintiff submits that the ALJ’s step four finding—that the Plaintiff has past
relevant work as a dental assistant and dental receptionist that she can perform [Tr. 20]—is not
supported by substantial evidence because the Plaintiff’s multifocal conduction block neuropathy
prevents her from engaging in substantial gainful activity. [Doc. 11 at 8].
Having found that the Plaintiff’s RFC is supported by substantial evidence, the Court finds
no merit in the Plaintiff’s step four allegation. “A claimant bears the burden of proving she cannot
perform her past relevant work either as she performed the job or as the job is generally performed
in the national economy.” Ellis v. Astrue, No. 3:11-CV-535, 2012 WL 5304203, at *5 (E.D. Tenn.
Oct. 4, 2012) (internal citations omitted) (citing Studaway v. Sec’y of Health and Human Servs.,
815 F.2d 1074, 1076 (6th Cir. 1987)). During the administrative hearing, a vocational expert
testified that given the Plaintiff’s RFC, she had past relevant work as a dental assistant and dental
receptionist. [Tr. 42-43]. The ALJ relied on the vocational expert’s testimony to make her step
four finding that the Plaintiff has past relevant work she can perform and is therefore “not
disabled.” “A vocational expert’s testimony concerning the availability of suitable work may
constitute substantial evidence where the testimony is elicited in response to a hypothetical
question that accurately sets forth the plaintiff’s physical and mental impairments.” Smith v.
Halter, 307 F.3d 377, 378 (6th Cir. 2001).
Accordingly, the Court finds the ALJ’s step four
determination is likewise supported by substantial evidence.
Based on the foregoing, the Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 10] will be
DENIED, and the Commissioner’s Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 12] will be GRANTED.
The decision of the Commissioner will be AFFIRMED. The Clerk of Court will be directed to
CLOSE this case.
United States Magistrate Judge
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