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Harvey v. Berryhill

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

July 17, 2017

PATSY KATHRINE HARVEY, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          C. CLIFFORD SHIRLEY, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the consent of the parties [Doc. 12]. Now before the Court is the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 13 & 14] and the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 15 & 16]. Patsy Kathrine Harvey (“the Plaintiff”) 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 Commissioner”). For the reasons that follow, the Court will DENY the Plaintiff's motion, and GRANT the Commissioner's motion.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On August 22, 2012, the Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”), claiming a period of disability which began March 31, 2012. [Tr. 116-23]. After her application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, the Plaintiff requested a hearing. [Tr. 76-77]. On April 30, 2014, a hearing was held before the ALJ to review determination of the Plaintiff's claim. [Tr. 22-41]. On July 14, 2014, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff was not disabled. [Tr. 6-21]. The Appeals Council denied the Plaintiff's request for review [Tr. 1-5]; thus, the decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Having exhausted her administrative remedies, the Plaintiff filed a Complaint with this Court on October 1, 2015, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision under Section 405(g) of the Social Security Act. [Doc. 1]. The parties have filed competing dispositive motions, and this matter is now ripe for adjudication.

         II. ALJ FINDINGS

         The ALJ made the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through September 30, 2015.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 31, 2012, the alleged onset date. (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq.)
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: fractured left hand, status post-surgery. (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 light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b). She can lift or carry up to 20 pounds occasionally, 10 pounds frequently; sit, stand, and walk up to a total of 6 hours each in an 8-hour day. She is limited to frequently performing manipulative activities and operating foot controls. She has no postural activity limitations, and no visual, communicative or environmental restrictions.
6. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work as an office manager and housekeeping/cleaner job. This work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the claimant's residual functional capacity (20 CFR 404.1565).
7. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from March 31, 2012, through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(f)).

[Tr. 11-18].

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When 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's decision 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, and whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence. Blakley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 405 (6th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted); Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 378 F.3d 541, 544 (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) (citations omitted). It is 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) (citation omitted).

         On review, the plaintiff “bears the burden of proving his entitlement to benefits.” Boyes v. Sec'y. of Health & Human Servs., 46 F.3d ...


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