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Parker v. Berryhill

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

March 2, 2017




         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record (Docket No. 15). For the reasons stated herein, Plaintiff's Motion is DENIED, and the decision of the Social Security Administration is AFFIRMED.


         This is a civil action for judicial review of the Social Security Administration's denial of benefits to Plaintiff Johnny Parker on October 4, 2012. Plaintiff filed a Title II application for disability and a Title XVI application for supplemental security income on February 9, 2011. In both applications, he alleged disability beginning on July 1, 2006.[2] The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denied both applications. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a written request for a hearing, and an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) held a hearing on September 20, 2012. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act. Administrative Record (“AR”), found at Docket No. 11, p. 14.[3]


         The ALJ heard testimony from the Plaintiff and from Melissa Neal, a vocational expert. Plaintiff testified that he last worked in 2006 as a truck driver. He left because he had a DUI which revoked his license and because his feet “got to bothering” him. AR, pp. 38-39. He testified that he was capable of driving, but his license was still suspended. AR, pp. 41-42. He stated that he works on old cars for a hobby, and he was still able to do that, as long as he was not standing up very much. AR, p. 43. He testified that he tore down engines and rebuilt them. AR, p. 44.

         Plaintiff told the ALJ that his feet bother him a lot when he is standing up, and after about two hours, he has to find a place to sit down. AR, p. 46. He stated that, if he did not sit down, both feet swelled up. Id. He testified that he could sit for about 30 minutes before he had to stand up, and he could walk for about ten minutes before he had to sit down. AR, p. 49. He said that his worst pain was in his feet, particularly his left foot, and that he had that pain all the time. Id. at 52-53. Plaintiff testified that he did not do grocery shopping, but he was able to do his own laundry, cook, and mow grass with a self-propelled push mower. AR, p. 54. He stated that he also had pain in his right shoulder daily from a broken collar bone. AR, pp. 58-59.

         The vocational expert answered three hypothetical questions from the ALJ. As relevant to this case on appeal, the vocational expert testified that a person of Plaintiff's age, education and work experience who could continuously lift up to 20 pounds, continuously carry up to 10 pounds, occasionally lift or carry 21-20 pounds and frequently lift or carry 11 to 20 pounds, stand six hours total, walk five hours total, and sitt eight hours total, occasionally reach overhead with the right upper extremity, frequently reach or push/pull with the right hand, continuously perform all other activities with both hands, occasionally climb, crouch or crawl, frequently stoop or kneel and continuously balance could perform Plaintiff's past work, so long as he did not have to do significant lifting and carrying. She stated that the record showed that Plaintiff's actual past work did not involve lifting or carrying - he was mainly driving the truck. AR, pp. 63-65. Also, with these stipulations, she testified that there are other jobs in the economy which the person could perform, including a carrier, transporter, and sweeper. AR, p. 65.


         The claimant bears the ultimate burden of establishing an entitlement to benefits by proving his “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. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(3).

         In determining disability, the SSA and the ALJ consider a five-step sequential evaluation process. The Sixth Circuit has described these five steps as:

(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 disabled.
(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.

Cruse v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 502 F.3d 532, 539 (6th Cir. 2007).


         The ALJ in this case made the ...

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