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Joseph v. Berryhill

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

August 8, 2017

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



         Plaintiff Steven Joseph brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the Social Security Commissioner's denial of his applications for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security insurance (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act.

         On June 13, 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. 13) be denied and that the decision of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) be affirmed. The plaintiff has filed timely Objections (Doc. No. 21), to which the SSA has responded (Doc. No. 22). For the reasons discussed herein, the court will overrule the Objections, accept the R&R, and deny the plaintiff's motion.


         The plaintiff filed his applications for DIB and SSI on June 27, 2013, with a protective filing date of June 4, 2013, claiming that he had been disabled since November 1, 2007. (See Administrative Record (AR)[1] 274-87, Doc. No. 11.) He later amended the onset date to May 12, 2013. (AR 318.)

         The SSA denied the application initially and upon reconsideration. (AR 102-59, 163-68, 174-81.) The plaintiff requested and received a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), which was conducted on October 30, 2015. (AR 46-101.) The plaintiff and a vocational expert appeared and testified at the hearing. The plaintiff was represented at the hearing by a non-attorney representative.

         The ALJ issued a decision unfavorable to the plaintiff on December 11, 2015, finding that the plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act and Regulations. (AR 24-40.) The ALJ made the following specific findings:

         1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through March 30, 2017.

         2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 12, 2013, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 20 CFR 416.971 et seq.). . . .

         3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: cervical degenerative disc disease; left eye blindness and photosensitivity; personality disorder with maladaptive personality traits; anxiety disorder; bi-polar disorder; somatic symptoms disorder; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; and autism spectrum / Asperger's syndrome. (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 perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 417.967(c) except he can frequently lift twenty-five pounds and occasionally up to fifty pounds; stand and/or walk for about six hours in an eight hour workday; sit for about six hours in an eight-hour workday; with the non-dominant left hand, he can frequently grab and twist and occasionally grasp; he can frequently perform hand to finger repetitive action and frequently work with small objects; he can frequently read size 12 print and larger; he can occasionally read smaller than size 12 print; he can handle and work with rather large objects; occasionally avoid hazards in the workplace, such as boxes on the floor and doors ajar; should avoid concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dusts, gases and poor ventilation; and he should only work around moderate noise. He can maintain concentration, persistence, and pace for two hours at one time over an eight hour workday; occasionally interact with coworkers and supervisors but he should not work with the general public; he can adapt to infrequent changes in the workplace. . . .

         6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965). . . .

         7. The claimant was born on December 4, 1961 and was 51 years old, which is defined as an individual closely approaching advanced age, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 419.963).

         8. The claimant has at least a high school 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, 415.969(a)). . . .

         11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since May 12, 2013, through the date of this decision. (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).

(AR 26-40).

         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 June 11, 2016. (Doc. No. 1.) The SSA filed a timely Answer (Doc. No. 10), denying liability, and a complete copy of the Administrative Record (Doc. No. 11). On October 6, 2016, the plaintiff filed his Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record and supporting Brief (Doc. Nos. 13, 14), which the SSA opposed (Doc. No. 17). The plaintiff filed a Reply. (Doc. No. 18.) On June 13, 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 Objections to the R&R (Doc. No. 21); the SSA has filed a Response in opposition to the Objections (Doc. No. 22).


         When a magistrate judge issues a report and recommendation regarding a dispositive pretrial matter, the district court must review de novo any portion of the report and recommendation to which a proper objection is made. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(1)(C); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); United States v. Curtis, 237 F.3d 598, 603 (6th Cir. 2001); Massey v. City of Ferndale, 7 F.3d 506, 510 (6th Cir. 1993). Objections must be specific; a general objection to the R&R is not sufficient and may result in waiver of further review. Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 380 (6th Cir. 1995). In conducting its review of the objections, the district court “may ...

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