United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
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 consent of the parties [Doc. 20]. Now before the
Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and
Memorandum in Support [Docs. 21 & 22] and the
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in
Support [Docs. 23 & 24]. Sally Lance
(“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the
decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“the
ALJ”), the final decision of Defendant Nancy A.
Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“the
Commissioner”). For the reasons that follow, the Court
will DENY Plaintiff's motion and
GRANT the Commissioner's motion.
February 8, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for
supplemental security income benefits pursuant to Title XVI
of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et.
seq., claiming a period of disability that began on that
same date. [Tr. 13, 37-38, 187-94]. After her application was
denied initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff
requested a hearing before an ALJ. [Tr. 102-05]. A hearing
was held on March 24, 2015. [Tr. 34-55]. On April 16, 2015,
the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. [Tr. 13-28].
The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review
[Tr.1-3], making the ALJ's decision the final decision of
exhausted her administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed a
Complaint with this Court on August 25, 2016, seeking
judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision
under Section 405(g) of the Social Security Act. [Doc. 1].
The parties have filed competing dispositive motions, and
this matter is now ripe for adjudication.
made the following findings:
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since February 8, 2013, the application date (20 CFR
416.971 et seq.).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease [(“COPD”)];
osteopenia, restless legs syndrome; orthostatic hypotension;
depression (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
3. 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 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
4. 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 416.967(b) except
that she can occasionally climb ramps, stairs, ladders,
ropes, and scaffolds. The claimant can occasionally crouch,
kneel, and crawl. She should avoid concentrated exposure to
wetness or humidity, as well as fumes, odors, dust, and
gases. The claimant is limited to work involving simple,
routine, repetitive tasks, in which she should be allowed to
be off-task 5 percent of the workday, in addition to normal
breaks. She is limited to low-stress work, which is defined
as having only occasional decision-making required and only
occasional changes in the work setting. The claimant should
have only occasional interaction with the public and
5. The claimant has no past relevant work (20 CFR 416.965).
6. The claimant was born on May 26, 1962 and was 50 years
old, which is defined as an individual closely approaching
advanced age, on the date the application was filed (20 CFR
7. The claimant has limited education and is able to
communicate in English (20 CFR 416.964).
8. Transferability of job skills is not an issue because the
claimant does not have past relevant work (20 CFR 416.968).
9. Considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 416.969 and
10. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, since February 8, 2013, the date
the application was filed (20 CFR 404.1520(f) and
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. ...