United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
DUANE J. SALMEN, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
CLIFFORD SHIRLEY, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
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. 19]. Now before the
Court is the Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the
Administrative Record and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 13
& 14] and the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 15 & 16]. Duane J.
Salmen (“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.
21, 2012, the Plaintiff filed an application for disability
insurance benefits (“DIB”), claiming a period of
disability which began December 27, 2011. [Tr. 60, 147-49].
After his application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration, the Plaintiff requested a hearing. [Tr.
103]. A hearing was held before the ALJ on May 6, 2014 [Tr.
29-58], and on July 25, 2014, the ALJ found that the
Plaintiff was not “disabled” [Tr. 13-28]. The
Appeals Council denied the Plaintiff's request for review
[Tr. 1-6]; thus, the ALJ's decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner.
exhausted his administrative remedies, the Plaintiff filed a
Complaint with this Court on May 4, 2016, 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.
made the following findings:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through June 30, 2017.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since December 27, 2011, the alleged onset date (20
CFR 404.1457 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: neck
disorder, status post repair of two hernias, left hip
disorder, back disorder, diabetes mellitus, and obesity (20
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) except the claimant must avoid all climbing
of ladders, ropes, and scaffolds and is able occasionally to
climb ramps and stairs; balance; stoop; kneel; crouch; and
crawl. He should avoid working in high, exposed places. He is
able to frequently reach with both upper extremities.
6. The claimant is capable of performing past work as product
manager, sedentary skilled (DOT 163.167-018) and rental car
clerk, light, semiskilled (DOT 295.467-026). 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 December 27, 2011, through
the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(f)).
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'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).
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).
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) (citation omitted).
case involves an application for DIB. An individual qualifies
for DIB if he or she: (1) is insured for DIB; (2) has not
reached the age of retirement; (3) has filed an application
for DIB; and (4) is disabled. 42 U.S.C. § 423(a)(1).
is the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or
which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than twelve months.” §