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Pendergraph v. Berryhill

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

March 31, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         I. Introduction

         This action was instituted pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying Forrest Pendergraph, Jr.'s (“Plaintiff”) claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), as provided by the Social Security Act.

         The parties have consented to entry of final judgment by the United States Magistrate Judge under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), with any appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [Doc. 14]. Pending before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record [Doc. 15] and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 17].

         For the reasons stated herein, the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision. Accordingly, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion [Doc. 15] and GRANTS Defendant's Motion [Doc. 17].

         II. Background

         A. Procedural History

         On September 23, 2011, Plaintiff protectively filed for DIB and SSI under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (“Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq. and 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq., based on severe back trauma, arthritis, and nerve damage to the back[1] [Tr. 110-122, 136].[2] Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and on reconsideration [Tr. 49-52, 53-57, 60-65]. On June 11, 2014, Plaintiff appeared and testified at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Jeannie Bartlett [Tr. 29-48]. On August 28, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was “not disabled, ” as defined in the applicable sections of the Act, because work existed in the national economy that he could still perform [Tr. 10-18]. On September 1, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review [Tr. 1-3]. Thus, Plaintiff has exhausted his administrative remedies, and the ALJ's decision stands as the Commissioner's final decision subject to judicial review. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         B. Relevant Facts

         Plaintiff's Age, Education, and Past Work Experience

         Plaintiff is currently a fifty-year-old individual who performed past relevant work as a cook, hanging parts worker, and painter [Tr. 43-44, 137]. At the time of his alleged onset date of June 10, 2010, Plaintiff was forty-four years old [Tr. 112, 116, 142].

         Plaintiff's Testimony and Medical History

         The parties and the ALJ have thoroughly summarized and discussed the medical and testimonial evidence of the administrative record. Accordingly, the Court will discuss those matters as relevant to the analysis of the parties' arguments.

         The ALJ's Findings

         After considering the entire record, the ALJ made the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2015.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 10, 2010, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571, et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, obesity, hearing loss, and degenerative joint disease (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, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except the claimant would be limited to lifting and carrying up to 20 pounds occasionally, up to 10 pounds frequently; could sit, stand, and walk for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday; would be limited to occasional pushing and pulling with the left upper extremity, but would be precluded from overhead reaching with the non-dominant left upper extremity; would be limited to climbing ropes and ramps, stooping, crouching, and crawling occasionally; would be precluded from climbing ladders and scaffolds, and would need a quiet environment where auditory acuity was not required.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on April 29, 1966 and was 44 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR ...

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