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Brindley v. Social Security Administration

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

February 23, 2015



JOHN S. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

This is a civil action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to obtain judicial review of the final decision of the Social Security Administration ("SSA" or "the Administration") denying plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits, as provided under the Social Security Act. The case is currently pending on plaintiff's motion for judgment on the administrative record (Docket Entry No. 10), to which defendant has responded (Docket Entry No. 14-1). Plaintiff has further filed a reply brief (Docket Entry No. 16). Upon consideration of these papers and the transcript of the administrative record (Docket Entry No. 9), [1] and for the reasons given below, the undersigned recommends that plaintiff's motion for judgment be DENIED and that the decision of the SSA be AFFIRMED.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff filed his claim to benefits on April 29, 2010, alleging that he became disabled on November 15, 2009, as a result of his injuries to both shoulders resulting in torn rotator cuffs. (Tr. 19, 151) His claim was denied at the initial and reconsideration stages of state agency review, whereupon plaintiff filed a request for de novo hearing and decision by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). An administrative hearing was held on March 8, 2012, at which plaintiff appeared with counsel. (Tr. 34-72) Plaintiff testified, as did an impartial vocational expert. At the conclusion of the hearing, the ALJ closed the record and took the matter under advisement, until May 14, 2012, when he issued a written decision in which plaintiff was found to be not disabled. (Tr. 19-27) That decision contains the following enumerated findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2014.

2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA) since November 15, 2009, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq. ).

3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative joint disease of both shoulders (torn rotator cuffs, status-post repair surgery on the non-dominant left) (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).

4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).

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), except for a maximal lift/carry capacity of 10 pounds and no overhead reaching with either arm.

6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565).

7. The claimant was born on September 24, 1961 and was 48 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date. The claimant subsequently changed age category to closely approaching advanced age upon attaining the age of 50 (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).

9. The claimant has no transferable 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 and 404.1569(a)).

11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from November 15, 2009, through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g)).

(Tr. 21, 23, 25-27)

On August 5, 2013, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-3), thereby rendering that decision the final decision of the Administration. This civil action was thereafter timely filed, and the court has jurisdiction. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). If the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence, based on the record as a whole, then those findings are conclusive. Id.

II. Review of the Record

The following summary of the record is taken from plaintiff's brief, Docket Entry No. 11 at 2-10.

Plaintiff Jimmy Brindley was born on September 24, 1961, and is now [53] years old. He was 48 years old on his alleged disability onset date, November 15, 2009. See Tr. 25, 147. As such, he was a younger individual under the regulations at the time of his alleged onset date, and later changed age categories to an individual closely approaching advanced age.

Mr. Brindley has received his primary care treatment from Dr. John M. Byrnes since at least 2005. Tr. 394-416. Medical records document his treatment for hypertension, depression, anxiety, sinus difficulties, ...

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