United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee
A. VARLAN, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case is before the Court on plaintiff's Motion for
Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 20, 21] and
defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in
Support [Docs. 24, 25]. Roger Lee Williams
(“plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the
decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“the
ALJ”), the final decision of defendant Nancy Berryhill,
Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“the
Commissioner”). For the reasons that follow, the Court
will deny plaintiff's motion, and grant the
filed an application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and supplemental security income
(“SSI”), claiming a period of disability which
began November 8, 2011 [Tr. 156-57, 158-64]. After his
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration,
plaintiff requested a hearing before a judge [Tr. 142]. On
March 4, 2014, a hearing was held before the ALJ to review
the denial of plaintiff's claim [Tr. 27- 64]. On May 29,
2014, the ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled [Tr.
7-26]. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for
review [Tr. 1-4]. Thus, the decision of the ALJ is the final
decision of the Commissioner.
exhausted his administrative remedies, plaintiff filed a
complaint with this Court on October 27, 2015, seeking
judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision
under § 405(g) of the Social Security Act [Doc. 2]. The
parties have filed competing dispositive motions, and this
matter is now ripe for adjudication.
made the following findings:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through September 30, 2016.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since November 8, 2011, the alleged onset date (20
CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: status
post right rotator cuff surgery times two, mild
osteoarthritis of the acromioclavicular joint, cervical spine
degenerative disc disease, small cystic lesion on the left
foot, obesity, borderline intellectual functioning, and mood
disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(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, 404.1526,
416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to lift and carry at the light exertional
level as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b),
stand/walk for 15 minutes at one time without interruption,
unlimited sitting, and no overhead reaching with the right
upper extremity. He is right hand dominant. He is able to
understand, remember, and carry out simple routine repetitive
instructions and tasks. He is able to sustain adequate
attention and concentration for the performance of the
previously described tasks. He can perform occasional social
interactions and is able to adapt to infrequent/gradual
changes. He can do no work requiring literacy or math skills.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on July 14, 1977 and was 34 years
old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on
the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and
8. The claimant has a limited education and is able to
communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).
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, 404.1569(a),
416.969, and 416.969(a)).
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from November 8, 2011, through
the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g))
Standard of Review
reviewing the Commissioner's determination of whether an
individual is disabled pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
the Court is limited to determining “whether the ALJ
applied the correct legal standards and whether the findings
of the ALJ are supported by substantial evidence.”
Blakley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399,
405 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Key v. Callahan, 109
F.3d 270, 273 (6th Cir. 1997)). If the ALJ applied the
correct legal standards and his findings are supported by
substantial evidence in the record, his decision is
conclusive and must be affirmed. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Warner v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 375 F.3d 387, 390
(6th Cir. 2004). Substantial evidence is “more than a
scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance; it is
such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Cutlip v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286
(6th Cir. 1994) (citing Kirk v. Sec'y of Health &
Human Servs., 667 F.2d 524, 535 (6th Cir. 1981))
(internal citations omitted).
immaterial whether the record may also possess substantial
evidence to support a different conclusion from that reached
by the ALJ, or whether the reviewing judge may have decided
the case differently. Crisp v. Sec'y of Health &
Human Servs., 790 F.2d 450, 453 n.4 (6th Cir. 1986). The
substantial evidence standard is intended to create a
“‘zone of choice' within which the
Commissioner can act, without the fear of court
interference.” Buxton v. Halter, 246 F.3d 762,
773 (6th Cir. 2001) (quoting Mullen v. Bowen, 800
F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986)). Therefore, the Court will not
“try the case de novo, nor resolve conflicts
in the evidence, nor decide questions of credibility.”
Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984)
(citing Myers v. Richardson, 471 F.2d 1265 (6th Cir.
addition to reviewing the ALJ's findings to determine
whether they were supported by substantial evidence, the
Court also reviews the ALJ's decision to determine
whether it was reached through application of the correct
legal standards and in accordance with the procedure mandated
by the regulations and rulings promulgated by the
Commissioner. See Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
378 F.3d 541, 544 (6th Cir. 2004).
review, the plaintiff “bears the burden of proving his
entitlement to benefits.” Boyes v. Sec'y. of
Health & Human Servs., 46 F.3d 510, 512 (6th Cir.
1994) (citing Halsey v. Richardson, 441 F.2d 1230
(6th Cir. 1971)).
case involves an application for DIB and SSI benefits. An
individual qualifies for DIB if he or she: (1) is insured for
DIB; (2) has not reached the age of retirement; (3) has filed
an application for DIB; and (4) is disabled. 42 U.S.C. §
423(a)(1). To qualify for SSI benefits, an individual must
file an application and be an “eligible
individual” as defined in the Act. 42 U.S.C. §
1382(a); 20 C.F.R. § 416.202. An individual is ...