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Smithson v. Berryhill

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

November 20, 2017

BRANDON W. SMITHSON, Plaintiff
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant

          To The Honorable Aleta A. Trauger, District Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          LANNY KING, MAGISTRATE JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Plaintiff filed a complaint seeking judicial review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), of the final decision of the Commissioner denying his claim for Social Security disability benefits. Docket 1. The Commissioner filed an electronic copy of the administrative record. Docket 12. Plaintiff filed his Motion for Judgment on the Record, along with a supporting memorandum of law. Docket 51. The Commissioner responded in opposition. Docket 53. The matter is ripe for determination.

         On September 5, 2017, the Court referred the matter to the undersigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 631 and 636 and Administrative Order No. 24. Section 631 authorizes designation of magistrate judges to serve in districts adjoining the district for which they were appointed. Administrative Order No. 24 was entered on June 12, 2017, and signed by the Chief Judges for the Middle District of Tennessee and the Western District of Kentucky. Section 636 authorizes magistrate judges to submit reports and recommendations to district judges on any case-dispositive matter.

         Because the administrative law judge's (ALJ's) decision was supported by substantial evidence and was in accord with applicable legal standards, the RECOMMENDATION will be to DENY Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Record (Docket 51); AFFIRM the Commissioner's final decision; and DISMISS Plaintiff's complaint.

         The ALJ's decision

         In August 2011, Plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act.

         In February 2014, the ALJ issued the Commissioner's final decision denying Plaintiff's disability claim pursuant to the familiar five-step sequential evaluation process.

         First, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 2011. ALJ's decision, administrative record (AR), p. 49.

         Second, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffers from the following severe, or vocationally significant, impairments: Emphysema; carpal tunnel; cognitive disorder; posttraumatic stress disorder; depression; obstructive sleep apnea; degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine; tinnitus; obesity; neuropathy. AR, p. 49.

         Third, the ALJ found that none of these impairments satisfies the medical criteria of any impairment listed in Appendix 1 of the regulations. AR, p. 49.

         As required in all cases that advance beyond Step 3, the ALJ determined Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (RFC), finding that his impairments limit him to light work with the following additional, non-exertional restrictions: “[C]laimant would need to avoid concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritants and moderate noise; claimant would be limited to detailed instructions; claimant could maintain concentration, persistence and pace for two hours at a time; can interact appropriately with others and can adapt to infrequent changes; can frequently lower and raise an object, twist, turn and perform frequent repetitive hand/finger action.” AR, p. 51.

         Fourth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is not disabled in light of the vocational expert's (VE's) testimony that an individual of Plaintiff's age, education, prior work experience, and RFC would be able to perform Plaintiff's past relevant work as an automobile sales person and motor home sales person. Decision at AR, p. 54 referring to testimony at AR, pp. 36-40.

         Because Plaintiff was found to be “not disabled” at Step 4, the ALJ did not advance the evaluation to the fifth and final step.

         Plaintiff's arguments

         The general Order in this case required that Plaintiff articulate ...


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