United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
REESE C. ELMORE, 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. 18]. Now before the
Court is the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and
Memorandum in Support [Docs. 12 & 13] and the
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in
Support [Docs. 14 & 15]. Reese C. Elmore
(“Elmore”) 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 Disability Insurance Benefits in May, 2012 (Tr.
123, 129). The application was denied (Tr. 80-83) and denied
again on reconsideration (Tr. 85-88). Following a hearing,
the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision (“the
Decision”) in December, 2014 (Tr. 18-28). The Decision
became final when the Appeals Council denied review in March,
2016 (Tr. 1-3).
was 50 years of age when the ALJ issued the Decision in this
case (Tr. 38). Elmore obtained a GED and attended
approximately two semesters of community college before
getting a medical discharge (Tr. 38, 51). His past work
experience is kitchen helper, merchandise deliverer,
amusement park ride attendant and warehouse worker (Tr. 64).
Plaintiff alleges disability based on knee, back and shoulder
problems, along with bipolar, mood swings and hallucinations,
both oral and visual. The ALJ found that Elmore had several
limitations, but still retained the residual functional
capacity (RDC) to perform less than the full range of light
work. The 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 repeated here.
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 ignored and mischaracterized Elmore's
medical records and improperly weighed medical opinions. The
Defendant argues that substantial evidence supports the
ALJ's assessment of Elmore's RFC.
is the most the Plaintiff can still do despite the physical
and mental limitations resulting from his impairments. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1545(a). It is a determination based on all
of the relevant medical and other evidence and is ultimately
an administrative determination reserved to the Commissioner.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(3); Social Security
Ruling (SSR) 96-8p.
Court finds that the ALJ did not “ignore” or
“mischaracterize” Elmore's medical records.
The ALJ's factual findings show that he considered the
record as a whole, and he reached “reasoned
conclusions” supported by substantial evidence (Tr.
20-27). The ALJ recognized Plaintiff's alleged mental
impairments and found Elmore's depression and anxiety to
be severe impairments (Tr. 19-26). The ALJ considered the
impact of Elmore's credible restrictions on Elmore's
remaining ability to work. The ALJ concluded that
Elmore's mental impairments resulted in moderate