United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
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 Rules of this Court for a report and recommendation
regarding disposition by the District Court of the
Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and
Memorandum in Support [Docs. 14 & 15] and the
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in
Support [Docs. 16 & 17]. Tommy Lynn Bray (“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 RECOMMEND that the Plaintiff's
motion be DENIED, and the Commissioner's
motion be GRANTED.
13, 2012, the Plaintiff filed an application for disability
insurance benefits pursuant to Title II of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq., claiming
a period of disability that began on September 15, 2010. [Tr.
128-31]. After his application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration, the Plaintiff requested a hearing before an
ALJ. [Tr. 89]. A hearing was held on August 20, 2014. [Tr.
23-49]. Thereafter, on January 14, 2015, the ALJ found the
Plaintiff was “not disabled.” [Tr. 8-22]. The
Appeals Council denied the Plaintiff's request for review
[Tr. 1-5], making the ALJ's decision the final decision
of the Commissioner.
exhausted his administrative remedies, the Plaintiff filed a
Complaint with this Court on August 26, 2016, seeking
judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision
under Section 405(g) of the Social Security Act. [Doc. 2].
The Court has considered the medical evidence in the record,
the testimony at the hearing, and all other evidence in the
record and finds that the medical history of the Plaintiff
and the content of the ALJ's decision are not in dispute
and therefore 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'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).
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.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a).
is evaluated pursuant to a five-step analysis summarized as
1. If claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, he is
2. If claimant is not doing substantial gainful activity, his
impairment must be severe before he can be found to be
3. If claimant is not doing substantial gainful activity and
is suffering from a severe impairment that has lasted or is
expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve
months, and his impairment meets or equals a listed