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Kitchen v. Berryhill

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

March 16, 2017

PAUL K. KITCHEN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          ALETA A. TRAUGER United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Paul Kitchen brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the Social Security Commissioner's denial of his application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434.

         On January 30, 2017, the magistrate judge issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) (Doc. No. 20), recommending that the plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record (Doc. No. 14) be denied and that the decision of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) be affirmed. The plaintiff has filed timely Objections. (Doc. No. 24.) For the reasons discussed herein, the court will overrule the Objections, accept the R&R, and deny the plaintiff's motion.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND[1]

         In 2011, the plaintiff filed his application for DIB, claiming that he had been disabled since March 1, 2011, due to back pain and depression. The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denied the application initially and upon reconsideration. (Doc. No. 10 (“AR”) at 79, 80, 83, 84-86, 90.[2]) The plaintiff requested and received a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Two administrative hearings were convened, the first on January 9, 2014 (AR 44-78), and the second on July 15, 2014 (AR 25-43), after additional medical records were made part of the Administrative Record. The plaintiff and a vocational expert (“VE”) appeared and testified at the hearings.

         The ALJ issued a decision unfavorable to the plaintiff on August 15, 2014, finding that the plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act and Regulations. (AR 7-24.) The ALJ made the following specific findings:

(1) The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2016.
(2) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 1, 2011, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq.).
(3) The claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease and major depressive disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c)). . . .
(4) 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 and 404.1526). . . .
(5) 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) except with no more than frequent postural activities of climbing, stooping, balancing, kneeling, crouching, and crawling; must avoid concentrated exposure to hazards; has the ability to understand, remember, and carry out simple, detailed, and multi-step detailed, but no complex and not [sic] executive level tasks; can maintain concentration and attention for such tasks with normal breaks spread throughout the day; can interact appropriately with others; and can adapt to occasional changes in the workplace and job duties. . . .
(6) The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565). . . .
(7) The claimant was . . . 50 years old, which is defined as an individual closely approaching advanced age, on the alleged disability onset date (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) Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or not the claimant has transferable job 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 March 1, 2011, through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g)).

(AR 12-19).

         The Appeals Council declined review of the case (AR 1), thus rendering the ALJ's decision the “final decision” of the Commissioner.

         The plaintiff filed his Complaint initiating this action on January 11, 2016. (Doc. No. 1.) The SSA filed a timely Answer (Doc. No. 9), denying liability. The plaintiff filed his Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record (Doc. No. 14), which the SSA opposed (Doc. No. 16), and the plaintiff filed a Reply brief (Doc. No. 17). On January 30, 2017, the magistrate judge issued his R&R (Doc. No. 20), recommending that the plaintiff's motion be denied and that the SSA's decision be affirmed.

         The plaintiff filed timely Objections (Doc. No. 24), and the SSA has filed a Response in opposition ...


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