United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
DAVID S. HUGHES, 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. 17]. Now before the
Court is the Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 12 & 13] and
the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and
Memorandum in Support [Docs. 14 & 15]. David S. Hughes
(“Hughes”) 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 January, 2013. The
application was denied, and denied again on reconsideration.
Following a hearing, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision
(“the Decision”) on June 23, 2015 (Tr. 24-35).
The Decision became final when the Appeals Council denied
review in April, 2016 (Tr. 1-3).
was 45 years of age when the ALJ issued the Decision in this
case (Tr. 34). Hughes graduated from high school and he
attended two years of college (Tr. 177). His past relevant
work experience is a physical therapy assistant (Tr. 49-50).
Hughes alleges an onset of disability in April, 2012, as the
result of an automobile accident in which he sustained
multiple fractures and other injuries. The Plaintiff alleges
disability based on physical problems, pain and cognitive
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)).
threshold matter, Hughes argues that the Appeals Council
erred by failing to review Plaintiff's application for
benefits following the submission of new and material
evidence. The Defendant argues that Hughes has failed to meet
his burden of showing that the new evidence is material.
submitted a request for review to the Appeals Council on July
7, 2015 (Tr. 12-20). He submitted new evidence in support of
his appeal on October 30, 2015 in the form of a Vocational
Report from Mark Boatner dated October 8, 2015.
summary, Boatner opined that there were no jobs available
that Hughes would be capable of performing with the RFC ...