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Layne v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga

February 5, 2018

TERRY LAYNE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         I. Introduction

         This action was instituted pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying Terry Layne's (“Plaintiff”) claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), as provided by the Social Security Act.

         This matter has been referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and (B) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b) for a report and recommendation on Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record [Doc. 16] and the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 20].

         The Commissioner determined that Plaintiff is not disabled under the Act. Finding that such determination is supported by substantial evidence in the record as required by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), I RECOMMEND that Plaintiff's motion [Doc. 16] be DENIED, the Commissioner's motion [Doc. 20] be GRANTED, and the Commissioner's decision be AFFIRMED.

         II. Background

         A. Procedural History

         On April 29, 2013, Plaintiff protectively filed for DIB and SSI under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (“Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq. and 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq., based on back and leg pain associated with failed back syndrome[1] [Tr. 176-184, 198].[2] Plaintiff's claims were denied initially and on reconsideration [Tr. 80-81, 110-111, 144-149, 152-157]. On September 2, 2015, Plaintiff appeared and testified at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Wesley Kliner [Tr. 25-79]. On December 7, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was “not disabled, ” as defined in the applicable sections of the Act, because work existed in the national economy that he could still perform [Tr. 10-18]. On September 21, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review [Tr. 1-3]. Thus, Plaintiff has exhausted his administrative remedies, and the ALJ's decision stands as the Commissioner's final decision subject to judicial review. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         B. Relevant Facts

         Plaintiff's Age, Education, and Past Work Experience

         Plaintiff is currently a forty-seven-year-old individual who performed past relevant work as an assistant supervisor at a plastic company and as a cabinet maker [Tr. 37, 68-69, 216]. At the time of his amended alleged onset date of June 1, 2011, Plaintiff was forty years old [Tr. 176, 178].

         Plaintiff's Testimony and Medical History

         The parties and the ALJ have summarized and discussed the medical and testimonial evidence of the administrative record. Accordingly, the Court will discuss those matters as relevant to the analysis of the parties' arguments.

         The ALJ's Findings

         After considering the entire record, the ALJ made the following findings:

1. The claimant met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through June 30, 2015.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 1, 2011, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571, et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative disk disease of the lumbar spine, major joint dysfunction, and affective and anxiety disorders (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
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, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), except he can perform only occasional postural activities, but no climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolding. The claimant can respond appropriately to supervisors, co-workers, and the public in frequent interactions. He is expected to be off task less than five percent of the time in an eight-hour workday due to mild to moderately limited concentration, persistence, and pace.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on October 20, 1970, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).
8. The claimant has a high school level education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR ...

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