Wooten-Word v. Social Security Administration
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: In light of the foregoing, Wooten-Word's Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record is DENIED and the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED. Signed by District Judge Aleta A. Trauger on 8/29/2017. (DOCKET TEXT SUMMARY ONLY-ATTORNEYS MUST OPEN THE PDF AND READ THE ORDER.)(jw)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
Case No. 3:13-cv-00837
Magistrate Judge Newbern
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting
Commissioner of Social Security, 1
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Pending before the court in this Social Security appeal is plaintiff Tina Wooten-Word’s
Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record (Doc. No. 13), to which the Commissioner
of Social Security has responded (Doc. No. 21). Wooten-Word has filed a reply. (Doc. No. 22.)
Upon consideration of these filings and the administrative record (Doc. No. 11), 2 and for the
reasons given below, Wooten-Word’s motion for judgment is DENIED and the decision of the
Commissioner is AFFIRMED.
Statement of the Case
Wooten-Word filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental
security income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act on July 13, 2009, alleging
disability onset as of August 1, 2003 (Tr. 15), due to “[h]epatitis C, crushed foot and hurt back,
Nancy A. Berryhill became the Acting Commissioner of Social Security on January 23,
2017, replacing Carolyn W. Colvin in that role. Berryhill is therefore appropriately substituted
for Colvin as the defendant in this action, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25(d) and
42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Referenced hereinafter by page number(s) following the abbreviation ATr.@
depression, anxiety, [and] seizures.” (Tr. 172.) Tennessee Disability Determination Services
(DDS) denied Wooten-Word’s claims upon initial review and again following her request for
reconsideration. Wooten-Word subsequently requested de novo review of her case by an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ heard the case on January 27, 2012, when WootenWord appeared with counsel and gave testimony. (Tr. 33–68.) A vocational expert also testified.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the ALJ took the matter under advisement until March 16,
2012, when she issued a written decision finding Wooten-Word not disabled. (Tr. 15–24.) That
decision contains the following enumerated findings:
The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security
Act through March 13, 2013.
The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August
1, 2003, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et
The claimant has the following severe impairments: chronic hepatitis,
bipolar disorder, attention deficit disorder and anxiety (20 CFR
404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
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).
After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that
the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform medium work
as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c) in that she can lift 50
pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently, and can sit, stand and walk
for six hours each in an eight-hour day. She can understand and remember
simple and complex decisions, but cannot make executive level decisions.
She has the ability to maintain attention and concentration for periods of
two hours, can appropriately interact with co-workers and the general
public, and can adapt to gradual change.
The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work as a data entry
clerk. This work does not require the performance of work-related
activities precluded by the claimant’s residual functional capacity (20 CFR
404.1565 and 416.965).
The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social
Security Act, from August 1, 2003, through the date of this decision (20
CFR 404.1520(f) and 416.920(f)).
(Tr. 17, 19–20, 24.)
On June 19, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Wooten-Word’s request for review of the
ALJ’s decision (Tr. 1–3), rendering that decision final. This civil action seeking review was
timely filed on August 21, 2013. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Review of the Record
At her hearing before the ALJ, Wooten-Word testified that she was thirty-eight years old,
was able to read and write, and had attended school through the ninth grade. (Tr. 36.) She
subsequently obtained her GED. (Id.) She testified that she had a driver’s license and was able to
drive without limitation. (Tr. 36–37.) Her past work history includes semi-skilled jobs as a
certified pharmacy technician in both retail and closed-door pharmacies and as data entry clerk.
(Tr. 38, 59, 62.) When asked to tell the ALJ in her own words why she could not work, WootenWord stated:
I’m not able to work because I have to take so much time off work to go to my
doctor’s appointments and now I have mental health people that come to the
house twice a month. I can’t sit or stand for, for long, as long periods of time like
I use[d] to be able to because of my depression and my mental health stuff. My
memory, I have memory problems now, I get aggravated with people easier, I get
real nervous in certain situations with a lot of things going on at one time. I
. . . zone out like for periods of a time, different periods of a time and with my
nausea and vomiting there’s days that, that I mean I’m in the bed for the single
fact that I’m so nauseous or that . . . I’m you know running back and forth getting
sick and not vomiting and then having to lay back down because I just have [a]
nauseous feeling all day.
Wooten-Word’s medical history includes treatment for physical ailments including
chronic hepatitis C, which causes her nausea and for which Interferon therapy was unhelpful;
residual pain from an injury to her left foot; and lower back pain. However, her arguments for
reversal of the ALJ’s decision are focused on her mental health conditions. The record reflects
that Wooten-Word received mental health treatment from December 2009 through February
2010 at Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System in Gallatin, Tennessee. (Tr. 375–87.) WootenWord refused case management services through that organization, but received individual
therapy and medication management. She was diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder, Most Recent
Episode Depressed, Moderate with related insomnia; and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity
Disorder, Predominantly Inattentive Type. (Tr. 385–86.) The last treatment notes from Volunteer
Behavioral Health Care System reflect Wooten-Word’s report that her depression medication
was effective in controlling her symptoms, her mood stabilization medication was “calming,”
and she had no side effects, although she did report not sleeping well. (Tr. 382, 384.)
On November 4, 2010, Wooten-Word presented for an intake evaluation at the Mental
Health Cooperative (MHC) in Gallatin, Tennessee. (Tr. 617–19.) She reported having attempted
suicide by prescription drug overdose in April 2006. (Tr. 617.) She also reported mood swings,
depression, isolation, agitation, regular auditory hallucinations, reduction in appetite, and
reduction in sleep, as well as occasional racing thoughts. (Id.) Based on these reported
symptoms, Wooten-Word was rated as markedly impaired in all domains of mental functioning
on a Tennessee Clinically Related Group (CRG) form 3 completed by Mental Health Liaison
Assessment Clinician Jessica Nicholson on the day of her intake. (Tr. 545–47.) The record
The CRG form does not address the ultimate issue of the patient’s work-related abilities
and limitations, but is instead a means of ascertaining the patient’s mental health treatment
classification for purposes of determining her entitlement to state-sponsored healthcare. See
Rosen v. Tenn. Comm’r of Health, No. 3:98-0627, 2005 WL 3740426, at *18 (M.D. Tenn. Apr.
28, 2005) (citation omitted), rev’d on other grounds, Rosen v. Goetz, 410 F.3d 919 (6th Cir.
2005) (“Most states have a way of identifying persons who are SPMI [(severely and persistently
mentally ill)]. . . . Tennessee uses an evaluation tool known as the Clinically Related Group
(CRG) assessment to classify individuals into the SPMI designation. . . . Tennessee has been
using the CRG assessment process since before the inception of TennCare to identify the SPMI
thereafter documents Wooten-Word’s regular receipt of case management and medication
management services from MHC (Tr. 545–619), which continued through the date of the
hearing. (Tr. 44a, Doc. No. 20, PageID# 690.)
On November 18, 2010, Wooten-Word received a psychological evaluation related to her
participation in the Families First Program of assistance that is monitored by the Tennessee
Department of Human Services. 4 (Tr. 438–45.) The evaluation and formal intelligence testing
were administered by Senior Psychological Examiner Tim K. McConkey. (Tr. 443.) Mr.
McConkey reported that Wooten-Word “obtained a Full Scale IQ of 64 placing her in the first
percentile and the ‘extremely low’ range of intellectual classification” (Tr. 441), and further
found as follows:
Clinical indicators support functional limitations in working memory (storing and
retrieving information in general) and processing speed with indirect impact on
self-direction in many job settings. Ms. Wooten may not be able to take initiative
in settings where she is required to multitask or where stale mood is necessary.
Current test results reveal Ms. Wooten has rather pervasive neurocognitive
challenges and the prognosis for obtaining additional education is poor.
Ms. Wooten’s current test results reveal that she likely meets the technical
threshold criteria for mental retardation based on accepted standards.
On December 22, 2011, Wooten-Word’s primary case manager at MHC, Krystle Raglin,
completed a Medical Source Statement (MSS) of her work-related mental limitations. (Tr. 620–
22.) Ms. Raglin opined that Wooten-Word suffered extreme limitations in nearly all domains of
work-related psychological functioning based on the IQ score obtained by Mr. McConkey and
The record reflects that Wooten-Word had been receiving Families First assistance since
October 2009 on the basis of “work interruption” due to medical impairments that limited her
ability to support her children and continued to receive such assistance through at least
December 2011. (Tr. 623–24.)
Wooten-Word’s Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) score. 5 She further opined that
Wooten-Word had suffered from these limitations since April 1, 1993. (Tr. 620–21.)
Conclusions of Law
Judicial review of “any final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security made after
a hearing” before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is authorized by the Social Security Act,
which empowers the district court “to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a
judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). This Court
reviews the ALJ’s final decision to determine whether substantial evidence supports its findings
and whether the correct legal standards were applied. Miller v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 811 F.3d
825, 833 (6th Cir. 2016). “Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance but more than a
scintilla; it refers to relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support
a conclusion.” Gentry v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 741 F.3d 708, 722 (6th Cir. 2014). The Court also
reviews the decision for procedural fairness. “The Social Security Administration has established
rules for how an ALJ must evaluate a disability claim and has made promises to disability
applicants as to how their claims and medical evidence will be reviewed.” Id. at 723. Failure to
follow agency rules and regulations, therefore, “denotes a lack of substantial evidence, even
where the conclusion of the ALJ may be justified based upon the record.” Id. (quoting Cole v.
Astrue, 661 F.3d 931, 937 (6th Cir. 2011)).
The ALJ’s decision must stand if substantial evidence supports it, even if the record
contains evidence supporting the opposite conclusion. See Hernandez v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec.,
It is unclear whether Ms. Raglin refers to the GAF score of 48–52 assigned on November
18, 2010 by Mr. McConkey (Tr. 443), or to the score of 40 assigned on November 4, 2010 by
Ms. Nicholson. (Tr. 547, 617.)
644 F. App’x 468, 473 (6th Cir. 2016) (citing Key v. Callahan, 109 F.3d 270, 273 (6th Cir.
1997)). This Court may not “try the case de novo, resolve conflicts in evidence, or decide
questions of credibility.” Ulman v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 693 F.3d 709, 713 (6th Cir. 2012)
(quoting Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007)). “However, a substantiality of
evidence evaluation does not permit a selective reading of the record . . . [but] ‘must take into
account whatever in the record fairly detracts from its weight.’” Brooks v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec.,
531 F. App’x 636, 641 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 388 (6th Cir.
The Five-Step Inquiry
The claimant bears the ultimate burden of establishing an entitlement to benefits by
proving his or her “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.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The claimant’s “physical or mental impairment” must
“result from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable
by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” Id. § 423(d)(3). The
agency considers a claimant’s case under a five-step sequential evaluation process, described by
the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals as follows:
1. A claimant who is engaging in substantial gainful activity will not be found to
be disabled regardless of medical findings.
2. A claimant who does not have a severe impairment will not be found to be
3. A finding of disability will be made without consideration of vocational
factors, if a claimant is not working and is suffering from a severe impairment
which meets the duration requirement and which meets or equals a listed
impairment in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the Regulations. Claimants with
lesser impairments proceed to step four.
4. A claimant who can perform work that he has done in the past will not be
found to be disabled.
5. If a claimant cannot perform his past work, other factors including age,
education, past work experience and residual functional capacity must be
considered to determine if other work can be performed.
Miller, 811 F.3d at 835 n.6; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. The claimant bears the burden
through step four of proving the existence and severity of the limitations her impairments cause
and the fact that she cannot perform past relevant work; however, at step five, the burden shifts
to the Commissioner to “identify a significant number of jobs in the economy that accommodate
the claimant’s residual functional capacity and vocational profile.” Johnson v. Comm’r of Soc.
Sec., 652 F.3d 646, 651 (6th Cir. 2011).
When determining a claimant’s residual functional capacity (RFC) at steps four and five,
the ALJ must consider the combined effect of all the claimant’s impairments, mental and
physical, exertional and nonexertional, severe and nonsevere. See 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(B),
(5)(B); Glenn v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 763 F.3d 494, 499 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1545(e)). The agency can carry its burden at the fifth step of the evaluation process by
relying on the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, commonly known as “the grids,” but only if a
nonexertional impairment does not significantly limit the claimant, and then only when the
claimant’s characteristics precisely match the characteristics of the applicable grid rule. See
Anderson v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 406 F. App’x 32, 35 (6th Cir. 2010); Wright v. Massanari, 321
F.3d 611, 615–16 (6th Cir. 2003). Otherwise, the grids function only as a guide to the disability
determination. Wright, 321 F.3d at 615–16; see also Moon v. Sullivan, 923 F.2d 1175, 1181 (6th
Cir. 1990). Where the grids do not direct a conclusion as to the claimant’s disability, the agency
must rebut the claimant’s prima facie case with proof of the claimant’s individual vocational
qualifications to perform specific jobs, typically through vocational expert testimony. Anderson,
406 F. App’x at 35; see Wright, 321 F.3d at 616 (quoting SSR 83-12, 1983 WL 31253, *4 (Jan.
C. Plaintiff’s Statement of Errors
Failure to Consider Diagnosed Impairments
Wooten-Word first argues that the ALJ erred in failing to properly consider all of her
diagnosed impairments, either by failing to consider them explicitly or by failing to provide
sufficient reasons for finding them not severe. Specifically, Wooten-Word argues that the ALJ
did not properly consider her impairments of gastroparesis; multiple diagnoses relating to the
lumbar spine; diagnoses related to the feet and legs, including Morton’s neuroma on the left foot;
migraines; epilepsy; asthma; and goiter. (Doc. No. 14, PageID# 665.) However, the ALJ
provided an extensive analysis of Wooten-Word’s impairments and provided ample explanation
of her finding that Wooten-Word’s claimed gastroparesis, lumbar spinal impairments and
chronic back pain, foot injuries and Morton’s neuroma, seizure disorder, and intellectual
disability were not severe because their claimed severity was contradicted by other record
evidence. (Tr. 18–19.)
As for the remaining conditions, the regulations do not require that all diagnosed
impairments be explicitly reviewed for their severity in the ALJ’s decision. Indeed, even an
erroneous finding of that an impairment is not severe is not necessarily reversible error, so long
as at least one severe impairment is identified and the ALJ’s sequential evaluation continues. See
Maziarz v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 837 F.2d 240, 244 (6th Cir. 1987). Ultimately, a
claimant’s residual functional capacity is determined in light of the combined effects of all
medically determinable impairments, severe and nonsevere alike. Accordingly, the fact that some
of Wooten-Word’s diagnosed impairments were not mentioned at the step two severity
determination is “legally irrelevant.” Anthony v. Astrue, 266 F. App’x 451, 457 (6th Cir. 2008)
(citing Maziarz, 837 F.2d at 244). The ALJ considered all of Wooten-Words impairments in the
later steps of her analysis.
Failure to Consider Listing 12.05(C) (Mild Mental Retardation) 6
Next, citing the low IQ score determined by Mr. McConkey, Wooten-Word argues that
the ALJ should have given explicit consideration to whether she met Listing 12.05(C) (Mild
Mental Retardation). However, substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s resolution of this issue at
the second step of the five-step inquiry. (Tr. 18.) As the ALJ found, the diagnostic criteria for
Listing 12.05(C) included an intellectual deficit accompanied by adaptive deficits that initially
manifest prior to age twenty-two. 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1, § 12.05 (2012). Here, there
is no evidence that Wooten-Word exhibited such deficits before the age of twenty-two, and the
single IQ test in the record was conducted after Wooten-Word had attained that age. (Tr. 18.)
The ALJ further determined that a finding of the required level of adaptive deficits would be
inconsistent with “the fact that [Wooten-Word] did earn a GED, home-schooled her son who
graduated from high school, and worked as a pharmacy technician” and that “the claimant now
resides with her infirm father who requires some logistical assistance on a daily basis, and assists
her youngest child in getting ready for school.” (Id.)
The cited evidence substantially supports the ALJ’s finding that Wooten-Word’s
intellectual deficits are not a severe impairment, despite Mr. McConkey’s diagnosis based upon a
single evaluation. Accordingly, the ALJ properly declined to consider whether Wooten-Word
satisfied the requirements of Listing 12.05(C). Alternatively, the ALJ’s finding that Wooten6
This listing was amended effective January 17, 2017, and is now titled “intellectual
disorder.” 20 C.F.R. § Pt. 404, subpt. P, App. 1, Listing 12.05 (2017).
Word’s intellectual impairment was not severe can be regarded as a determination that WootenWord did not meet the Listing. Substantial evidence and authority support that determination.
See Foster v. Halter, 279 F.3d 348, 354–55 (6th Cir. 2001) (analyzing claimant’s impairment
against diagnostic criteria of Listing 12.05C and finding Listing not met because only IQ test was
done after age 22; only pertinent evidence regarding intellectual functioning criterion was fact
that claimant left school after ninth grade; and claimant’s work as an accounting clerk and liquor
store clerk demonstrated ability to perform relatively complicated tasks).
Consideration of Case Manager Raglin’s Opinion
Wooten-Word next challenges the ALJ’s rejection of case manager Krystle Raglin’s
opinion that she was markedly or extremely limited in all areas of mental function. WootenWord cites Social Security Ruling (SSR) 06-3p, which addresses the review of opinions from
“other sources” who are not “acceptable medical sources” under the regulations and argues that
the ALJ did not give due consideration to Ms. Raglin’s opinion and discounted it for insufficient
reasons. (Doc. No. 14, PageID# 670–71.)
The ALJ considered Ms. Raglin’s opinion as follows:
The claimant has a medical source statement in her file provided by a case
manager, Kristle Raglin. The statement contains the conclusion that the claimant
is extremely limited in all aspects of understanding, remembering and carrying
out instructions. The assessment also contains the opinion that the claimant is
markedly and extremely limited in her ability to interact appropriately with
supervisors, co-workers, and the public. That evaluation is inconsistent with the
2009 assessment that the claimant has good concentration, and with the claimant’s
own admission to her case worker that she was preoccupied doing errands in
preparation for a household move, that she home schools her son, and that she
goes out in public to get those errands accomplished. Additionally, in response to
the request to identify the factors that support the assessment, the case worker
wrote, “The GAF score and the IQ test.” She did not mention any specific
symptoms or description of limitation. Her only hand written explanation read,
“The changes in the routine affects [the claimant]. Her major depression and
ADHD affects her also. She is diagnosed through Mental Health Cooperative as
being major depressive and ADHD.” The double report of diagnoses and
dependence on the GAF and IQ scores, with no recitation of symptoms, suggest
that the case worker has a very limited understanding of the claimant’s
psychological conditions and support the Social Security position that the
evaluator is not a reliable source for a medical source statement. This report is
afforded very little weight.
SSR 06-3p does require that an ALJ explain the weight she affords “other source”
opinions in a way that “allows a claimant or subsequent reviewer to follow the [ALJ]’s
reasoning, when such opinions may have an effect on the outcome of the case.” SSR 06-3p, 2006
WL 2329939, at *6 (Aug. 9, 2006). This standard is not demanding. Morris v. Comm’r of Soc.
Sec., No. 1:11-cv-154, 2012 WL 4953118, at *11 (W.D. Mich. Oct. 17, 2012). Here, the ALJ
fully explained her decision to accord “very little weight” to Ms. Raglin’s assessment because
that assessment was at odds with the other medical and testimonial evidence in the record and
with Wooten-Word’s demonstrated mental functional capacity. The court finds no error here.
The ALJ’s Credibility Finding
Finally, Wooten-Word argues that the ALJ based her credibility finding on inaccurate
information related to (1) the extent of Wooten-Word’s involvement in her son’s homeschooling,
(2) an assumption that Wooten-Word contracted hepatitis C from intravenous drug use and not
from a work-related needle stick, and (3) her conviction for theft. The ALJ made the following
findings regarding Wooten-Word’s credibility:
The claimant is not a credible witness. She presented her Hepatitis C condition as
being caused by a work related injury, but later conceded that she had engaged in
the use of intravenous recreational drugs. She alleged serious foot problems, but
admitted in testimony that she worked on her feet for ten-hour shifts after her foot
surgery. She explained at the beginning of her hearing that she had lost jobs
because she was terminated secondary to her inability to finish her 90-day trial
period, because of medical appointments, and because of medication side effects.
However, in later testimony, she admitted that she quit all but one job. She
testified that medications make her sleepy, but testified that her only pain
medication was ibuprofen. She said she needed excessive sleep, two to three days
in a row, even while taking Adderall. Her report of symptoms is inconsistent with
her report of daily activities to her case manager, and her testimony during one
phase of her hearing was inconsistent with testimony during another phase of the
hearing. The claimant’s credibility is further challenged by the fact that she is on
probation of a crime of dishonesty.
The ALJ also noted that Wooten-Word denied any history of intravenous drug abuse at
her consultative examination (Tr. 21, 317), while admitting at her hearing that she had “used
needles to do drugs” (Tr. 54).
Wooten-Word argues that the ALJ erroneously relied on the fact that Wooten-Word
homeschooled her son while ignoring testimony that she took her son to a tutor three times a
week. (Doc. No. 14, PageID# 667.) But Wooten-Word testified that the tutor was called to assist
with “[a]nything [her son] had problems with” or “got stumped on” (Tr. 49), and that she
otherwise administered her son’s homeschooling. (Tr. 48–49.) The ALJ appropriately considered
this testimony in its entirety. Further, Wooten-Word’s conviction for theft is an appropriate
consideration in a credibility determination and did not figure prominently in the ALJ’s analysis.
See Adams v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., No. 1:10-CV-503, 2011 WL 2650688, at *1 (W.D. Mich.
July 6, 2011) (finding that criminal history of larceny is an appropriate factor in a credibility
determination and collecting cases with similar holdings).
Of greater concern is the ALJ’s erroneous finding that Wooten-Word “admitted she did
not contract [hepatitis C] through her work, and that she had in fact used street drugs.” (Tr. 21.)
That finding is not supported by the record. Wooten-Word testified that she contracted hepatitis
C through a needle stick at work, not through drug or alcohol abuse, and there is no evidence in
the record that she ever stated otherwise. (Tr. 41.) The ALJ’s finding that Wooten-Word
contradicted herself on this point is based on the ALJ’s own inference and not Wooten-Word’s
However, this error and the others raised by Wooten-Word were not the only grounds for
the ALJ’s credibility determination. The ALJ noted inconsistencies between Wooten-Word’s
testimony regarding her activities and the record of her similar reports to healthcare providers.
(Tr. 23.) The ALJ also found Wooten-Word’s testimony about her limitations to be internally
inconsistent. (Id.) “Discounting credibility to a certain degree is appropriate where an ALJ finds
contradictions among the medical reports, claimant’s testimony, and other evidence.” Walters v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 531 (6th Cir. 1997). The credibility determination is also
firmly within the ALJ’s discretion and not to be decided anew by this court; it is due “great
weight and deference particularly since the ALJ has the opportunity, which we do not, of
observing a witness’s demeanor while testifying.” Jones v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469,
476 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing Walters, 127 F.3d at 528). A credibility finding is not to be disturbed
“absent compelling reason.” Smith v. Halter, 307 F.3d 377 (6th Cir. 2001). Given that level of
deference and the other unchallenged findings that make up the majority of the ALJ’s credibility
determination, the court finds the ALJ’s erroneous assumption about the origin of WootenWord’s hepatitis C is ultimately harmless. Substantial evidence otherwise supports the ALJ’s
credibility determination and there is no compelling reason to reverse it.
In sum, the court finds that the decision of the ALJ is supported by substantial evidence
on the record as a whole. That decision will therefore be affirmed.
In light of the foregoing, Wooten-Word=s Motion for Judgment on the Administrative
Record is DENIED and the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.
It is so ORDERED.
ENTERED this 29th day of August, 2017.
ALETA A. TRAUGER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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