United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
K. LEE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Nicholas Labit (“Plaintiff”) brought this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c) seeking
judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security (“Commissioner” or
“Defendant”) denying him supplemental security
income (“SSI”). Each party has moved for judgment
[Docs. 17 & 21] and filed supporting briefs [Docs. 18
& 22]. Plaintiff also filed a reply in support of his
motion [Doc. 23]. This matter is now ripe. For the reasons
stated below, (1) Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the
pleadings [Doc. 17] will be DENIED; (2) the
Commissioner's motion for summary judgment [Doc. 21] will
be GRANTED; and the decision of the
Commissioner will be AFFIRMED.
filed his application for SSI on August 17, 2013 [Doc. 11
(“Tr.”) at Page ID # 66], alleging disability
beginning April 19, 2011 (Tr. 10, 133). Plaintiff's claim
was denied initially and upon reconsideration at the agency
level. After a hearing was held on September 17, 2015, the
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) found on
November 20, 2015, that Plaintiff was not under a disability
as defined in the Social Security Act (Tr. 7-21). The Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner
(Tr. 1-5). Plaintiff timely filed the instant action [Doc.
Education and Employment Background
was born June 26, 1988, which made him a “younger
individual, ” on the date the application was filed
(Tr. 19, 133). Plaintiff has at least a high school education
and is able to communicate in English (Tr. 20).
Plaintiff's past relevant work history ranged from light
to medium and from unskilled to semi-skilled, and includes
hotel guest clerk and inspector (Tr. 19).
Disability Report, Plaintiff alleged disability due to
degenerative disc disease in the lower back, bulging discs
compressing spinal cord in the mid-thoracic region, chronic
thigh pain in left leg, nerve damage in lower left leg,
severe anxiety disorder, and depression (Tr. 149). Plaintiff
[Doc. 18 at Page ID # 729-32] and the ALJ (Tr. 13-18) each
set forth a detailed factual recitation with regard to
Plaintiff's medical record and the hearing testimony.
Defendant states that she adopts the statement of facts set
forth by the ALJ [Doc. 22 at Page ID # 746], but she also
includes extensive citation to the record throughout her
argument [id. at Page ID # 750-66]. While there is
no need to summarize the medical records herein, the relevant
records have been reviewed.
hearing occurred on September 17, 2015, at which Plaintiff
and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. The
transcript of the testimony at the hearing (Tr. 27-43) has
been carefully reviewed.
ELIGIBILITY AND THE ALJ'S FINDINGS
Social Security Act defines a disability as 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 12 months.'”
Schmiedebusch v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 536
Fed.Appx. 637, 646 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A)); see also Parks v. Soc. Sec. Admin.,
413 Fed.Appx. 856, 862 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(A)). A claimant is disabled “only if
his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such
severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work,
but cannot, considering his age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy.”
Parks, 413 Fed.Appx. at 862 (quoting 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(2)(A)). The Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) determines eligibility for disability
benefits by following a five-step process. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i-v). The five-step process provides:
1) If the claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, the
claimant is not disabled.
2) If the claimant does not have a severe medically
determinable physical or mental impairment-i.e., an
impairment that significantly limits his or her physical or
mental ability to do basic work activities-the claimant is
3) If the claimant has a severe impairment(s) that meets or
equals one of the listings in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the
regulations and meets the duration requirement, the claimant
4) If the claimant's impairment does not prevent him or
her from doing his or her past relevant work, the claimant is
5) If the claimant can make an adjustment to other work, the
claimant is not disabled.
Rabbers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 582 F.3d 647,
652 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted). The claimant bears
the burden to show the extent of his impairments, but at step
five, the Commissioner bears the burden to show that,
notwithstanding those impairments, there are jobs the
claimant is capable of performing. See Ealy v. Comm'r
of Soc. Sec., 594 F.3d 504, 512-13 (6th Cir. 2010)
The ALJ's Findings
one of the sequential process, the ALJ found Plaintiff had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the
application date, August 17, 2013 (Tr. 12). At step two, the
ALJ found Plaintiff had one severe impairment, degenerative
disc disease (Tr. 12). At step three, the ALJ found Plaintiff
did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (Tr.
the ALJ found Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 416.967(b), with some further restrictions, as follows:
The claimant can occasionally lift/carry 20 pounds and
frequently lift/carry 10 pounds. The claimant can stand/walk
for a total of four hours in an eight-hour workday and sit
for a total of six hours in an eight-hour workday. The
claimant can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The
claimant can occasionally climb ramps and stairs. The
claimant can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl.
(Tr. 14). At step four, the ALJ found Plaintiff was unable to
perform any past relevant work (Tr. 19). At step five,
however, the ALJ found there were jobs available to Plaintiff
in the national economy, such as assembly jobs and hand
packager jobs (Tr. 20). These findings led to the ALJ's
determination that Plaintiff was not under a disability as
defined in the Act from the date the application was filed
through the date of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 21).
asserts that this matter should be reversed and/or remanded
under sentence four for several reasons: (1) “Based
upon the medical record, specifically the findings by
[Plaintiff's] treating physician, Dr. Ball, [Plaintiff]
meets the requirements of Listing 12.07, and is therefore
disabled as a matter of law”; (2) the “ALJ erred
by failing to undertake a specific evaluation of Listing
12.07”; (3) the “ALJ improperly failed to accord
controlling weight to the opinion of [Plaintiff's]
treating physician, Dr. Ball”; and ...