United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(c), Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
and the consent of the parties [Doc. 14]. Now before the
Court is the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and
Memorandum in Support [Docs. 16 & 17] and the
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in
Support [Docs. 18 & 19]. Thomas Jefferson Hansard
(“Hansard”) seeks judicial review of the decision
of the Administrative Law Judge (“the ALJ”), the
final decision of the Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting
Commissioner of Social Security (“the
filed for Title II Disability Insurance Benefits and SSI,
alleging a disability onset date of January 1, 2011 (Tr.
109-112). The application was denied on March 28, 2012 (Tr.
64) and again on reconsideration on April 24, 2012 (Tr. 69).
Following a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) entered an unfavorable Decision on August
13, 2014 (Tr. 11-22). The Decision became final when the
Appeals Council denied review on July 31, 2015 (Tr. 1-4).
was 58 years of age when the ALJ issued the Decision in this
case. His past relevant work experience is as a carpenter, a
vocation he pursued for at least twenty (20) years (Tr. 32).
Although he alleges a disability onset date of January, 2011,
Hansard continued to work “small jobs” on a
self-employed basis throughout 2011-2013 (Tr. 13). For
example, he testified that he unloaded and set up displays
and tables for “time share shows” (Tr. 33-34).
Another example is “hanging doors” and other
carpentry work, as well as mowing grass and doing plumbing
repairs (Tr. 16, 21, 256).
Plaintiff alleges disability based on shoulder and knee pain
and claims of fatigue, which he attributes to hepatitis (a
condition for which he and his attorney conceded he has
received no treatment and has no medical history) (Tr. 31).
concluded that the Plaintiff was capable of doing his past
work as a carpenter, and therefore, was not
Court has considered the medical evidence in the record, the
testimony at the hearings, and all other evidence in the
record. The medical history of the Plaintiff and the content
of the ALJ's Decision are not in dispute, and need not be
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. Secretary 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)).
claim before this Court is that the ALJ erred in finding that
Hansard could perform past relevant work as a carpenter,
based on the RFC and the testimony of the vocational expert
witness at the hearing. The Defendant argues that substantial
evidence supports the ALJ's finding that Hansard could
perform his past relevant work as a carpenter. The ...