United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
JEFFREY S. HARRIS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
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. 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]. Jeffrey S. Harris
(“Harris”) seeks judicial review of the decision
of the Administrative Law Judge (“the ALJ”), the
final decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security
filed for Title II Disability Insurance Benefits in October,
2014 (Tr. 144). The application was denied (Tr. 67) and
denied again on reconsideration (Tr. 78). Following a
hearing, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision (“the
Decision”) on September 10, 2015 (Tr. 16-25). The
Decision became final when the Appeals Council denied review
on January 14, 2016 (Tr. 1-4).
was 52 years of age when the ALJ issued the Decision in this
case (Tr. 25). Harris graduated from high school and was in
the United States Army from 1981 to 2001 (Tr. 169). Post-Army
his past relevant work experience is injection mold tech,
security officer, corrections officer, warehouse manager, and
jailer, the last job he held, from January, 2014 to April 14,
2014 (Tr. 169).
does not allege that he stopped his job as a jailer due to
disability. Harris testified that he quit that job after a
disagreement with his supervisor. According to Harris, the
supervisor wanted Harris to “lift some heavy
items.” Harris said he couldn't do it, there was a
“disagreement, ” and Harris told his supervisor,
“I don't need this. I'm out of here” (Tr.
48). This occurred on April 11, 2014.
Plaintiff alleges disability based on knee problems, which
require him to wear knee braces and use a walking crutch or
cane (Tr. 38). He also states that he must sit and elevate
his legs after standing for 15-20 minutes (Tr. 40). Harris
also complains of hip and back pain (Tr. 41). Harris alleges
an onset date of April 11, 2014, the day he quit his job as a
jailer (Tr. 144).
Court has considered the medical evidence in the record, the
testimony at the hearing, 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)).
argues that the ALJ did not properly consider his use of a
cane and knee braces in the RFC finding. Harris testified at
the hearing that he uses knee braces, prescribed by his
doctor, and the walking crutch to help support him so his
legs do not lock as he has a tendency to fall if he does not
have them (Tr. 38). On February 14, 2013, Dr. Dale E.
Whitson, MD, diagnosed chronic internal derangement of the
left knee, and right knee pain and stiffness, and referred
Harris for an orthopedic consult for braces and to
“obtain a cane” (Tr. 430-31). Thereafter, Harris
received a cane, which he was instructed “to use in
right hand, ” and a left knee brace for stability (Tr.
419). Dr. Judson C. McGowan, MD, completed a knee and lower
extremity questionnaire for the Veterans Administration and
reported that Harris uses a cane ...