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Coggin v. Berryhill

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

September 7, 2017

LANNY ROSS COGGIN, JR.
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner of Social Security [1]

          MEMORANDUM

          BARBARA D. HOLMES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) to obtain judicial review of the final decision of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying his claim for a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), as provided under Title II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”). The case is currently pending on Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the administrative record (Docket Entry No. 16), to which Defendant has responded. Docket Entry No. 17. Plaintiff has also filed a subsequent reply to Defendant's response (Docket Entry No. 18), to which Defendant has filed a surreply. Docket Entry No. 21. This action is before the undersigned for all further proceedings pursuant to the consent of the parties and order of the District Judge in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) (Docket Entry Nos. 23-24).

         Upon review of the administrative record as a whole and consideration of the parties' filings, Plaintiff's motion is DENIED and the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and DIB on February 15, 2010. See Transcript of the Administrative Record (Docket Entry No. 14) at 95.[2] He alleged a disability onset date of August 15, 2008. AR 95. Plaintiff asserted that he was unable to work due to neuropathy, degenerative disc disease, and other back problems. AR 102.[3]

         Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration AR 95-96. Pursuant to his request for a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified at a hearing before ALJ Michelle Thompson on February 22, 2012. AR 29. On March 9, 2012, the ALJ denied the claim. AR 15-17. On July 5, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for a review of the ALJ's decision (AR 1-3), thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. This civil action was thereafter timely filed, and the Court has jurisdiction. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         II. THE ALJ FINDINGS

         The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on April 23, 2012. AR 15. Based upon the record, the ALJ made the following enumerated findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2013.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 15, 2008, the alleged onset date. (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq.).
***
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: lumbosacral spondylosis, without myelopathy; obstructive chronic bronchitis, without exacerbation, post-laminectomy syndrome, lumbar region; and neuropathy of the lower extremities (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).
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5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to lift and/or carry 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds occasionally; stand, walk, and/or sit for up to six hours each; occasionally climb ladders/ropes/scaffolds; and frequently climb ramps/stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl.
***
6. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work as a night club manager and restaurant manager. This work does not require the performance of work-related activaties 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 August 15, 2008, through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(f)).

AR 20-24.

         III. REVIEW OF THE RECORD

         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 only to the extent necessary to analyze the parties' arguments.

         IV. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

         A. Standard of Review

         The determination of disability under the Act is an administrative decision. The only questions before this Court upon judicial review are: (i) whether the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence; and (ii) whether the Commissioner made legal errors in the process of reaching the decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971) (adopting and defining substantial evidence standard in context of Social Security cases); Kyle v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 609 F.3d 847, 854 (6th Cir. 2010). The Commissioner's decision must be affirmed if it is supported by substantial evidence, “even if there is substantial evidence in the record that would have supported an opposite conclusion.” Blakley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 406 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Key v. Callahan, 109 F.3d 270, 273 (6th Cir. 1997)); Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 477 (6th Cir. 2003); Her v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 203 F.3d 388, 389-90 (6th Cir. 1999).

         Substantial evidence is defined as “more than a mere scintilla” and “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401 (quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229, 59 S.Ct. 206, 83 L.Ed. 126 (1938)); Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007); LeMaster v. Weinberger, 533 F.2d 337, 339 ...


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