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Stiner v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville

February 23, 2017

WAYNE W. STINER, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Magistrate Judge H. Bruce Guyton

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          TRAVIS R. MCDONOUGH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Wayne W. Stiner brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying him supplemental security income (“SSI”). The Court referred the matter to United States Magistrate Judge H. Bruce Guyton, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and in accordance with Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”). On December 14, 2016, Magistrate Judge Guyton filed an R&R (Doc. 23) recommending that: (1) Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 13) be granted in part and denied in part; (2) Commissioner's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 21) be granted in part and denied in part; and (3) the case be remanded to the Commissioner for reevaluation of Plaintiff's level of education pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 416.964. Plaintiff timely filed objections to the R&R (Doc. 24), and Defendant responded (Doc. 25). For the following reasons, the Court will ACCEPT and ADOPT the Magistrate Judge's R&R (Doc. 23).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff did not object to the Magistrate Judge's recitation of the facts, so the Court will not recite them here. Plaintiff brought this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying his application for SSI benefits. In reaching the decision to deny benefits, the Commissioner, through the ALJ, analyzed Plaintiff's claim under the five-step sequential evaluation process outlined in 20 C.F.R § 404.1520(a)(4) and 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 and vocational factors (age, education, skills, etc.), he is not disabled.

Nejat v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 359 F. App'x 574, 576 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 529 (6th Cir. 1997)). During the evaluative process, the claimant bears the burden of proof at steps one through four. Id. However, at step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to identify jobs in the economy that the claimant could perform considering his impairments. Id.

         At step four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) enabled him to

perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(c) except that he could lift and/or carry, including upward pulling, 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently. With normal breaks in an eight-hour day, he could sit, stand and/or walk up to six hours each. Moreover, he could perform unlimited push/pull, including hand/foot controls, within the exertional limitations. Additionally, the claimant could frequently perform all postural activities and has no manipulative, visual or communicative limitations but would need to avoid concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritants. Mentally, the claimant is able to concentrate and persist sufficiently to understand, remember and carry out simple, routine repetitive tasks and instructions as well as low-level detailed ones. Lastly, he is able to adapt to occasional changes in the workplace.

(Doc. 9, at 21.) Then, at step five, the ALJ considered Plaintiff's level of education in attempting to reach a determination of whether he could perform other work in the national economy given his RFC, age, education, and other vocational factors. See 20 C.F.R. ยง 416.920. Based on Plaintiff's representations that he had obtained a GED, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had a high school ...


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