United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
A. TRAUGER MAGISTRATE Judge.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. 12)
PATRICIA T. MORRIS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Introduction and Procedural History
an action for judicial review of a final decision by the
Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff Danny Ray
Sampson's claim for Supplemental Security Income benefits
(“SSI”) under Title XVI, 42 U.S.C. §§
1381-1383f. (Tr. 129-34). Pursuant to Administrative Order
No. 24, entered on January 13, 2018, and 28 U.S.C. §
636, subsections (a), (b), and (c), this case has been
assigned to the undersigned Magistrate Judge. The matter is
currently before the court on Plaintiff's motion for
summary judgment. (Doc. 12).
was born on December 30, 1969, making him 42 years old on his
alleged disability onset date of November 18, 2012. (Doc. 13
at ¶ 448). He filed his application for SSI on November
19, 2012. (Tr. 10). His application was denied on February
25, 2013. (Tr. 78-80). On March 12, 2013, Plaintiff filed a
request for reconsideration, (Tr. 85-86), and on June 5,
2013, the Commissioner confirmed that the previous denial of
his claim was proper under the law. (Tr. 88-89). Plaintiff
filed a timely Request for Hearing on June 27, 2013. (Tr.
92). The hearing was held on November 16, 2014, before
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Alfred M. Smith,
Jr.; Vocational Expert (“VE”) Charles Wheeler and
Plaintiff both testified at the hearing. (Tr. 23-50). On
January 20, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision denying
Plaintiff's claim. (Tr. 7-22). Plaintiff submitted a
request for review to the Appeals Council, (Tr. 84-87), which
the Appeals Council denied on June 15, 2016. (Tr. 1-6). This
Standard of Review
district court has jurisdiction to review the
Commissioner's final administrative decision pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The district court's review is
restricted to determining whether the “Commissioner has
failed to apply the correct legal standard or has made
findings of fact unsupported by substantial evidence in the
record.” Sullivan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
595 Fed.Appx. 502, 506 (6th Cir. 2014) (internal citations
omitted). Substantial 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.” Rogers v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir.
2007) (internal quotations omitted).
court must examine the administrative record as a whole, and
may consider any evidence in the record, regardless of
whether it has been cited by the ALJ. See Walker v.
Secretary of Health and Human Services, 884 F.2d 241,
245 (6th Cir. 1989). The court will not “try the case
de novo, nor resolve conflicts in the evidence, nor decide
questions of credibility.” Cutlip v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir.
1994). If the Commissioner's decision is supported by
substantial evidence, “it must be affirmed even if the
reviewing court would decide the matter differently and even
if substantial evidence also supports the opposite
conclusion.” Id. (internal citations omitted).
Framework for Disability Determinations
the Act, “DIB and SSI are available only for those who
have a ‘disability.'” Colvin v.
Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007).
“Disability” means 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), 1382c(a)(3)(A) (DIB); 20
C.F.R. § 416.905(a) (SSI). The Commissioner's
regulations provide that disability is to be determined
through the application of a five-step sequential analysis:
(i) At the first step, we consider your work activity, if
any. If you are doing substantial gainful activity, we will
find that you are not disabled. . . .
(ii) At the second step, we consider the medical severity of
your impairment(s). If you do not have a severe medically
determinable physical or mental impairment that meets the
duration requirement . . . or a combination of impairments
that is severe and meets the duration requirement, we will
find that you are not disabled. . . .
(iii) At the third step, we also consider the medical
severity of your impairment(s). If you have an impairment(s)
that meets or equals one of our listings in appendix 1 of
this subpart and meets the duration requirement, we will find
that you are disabled. . . .
(iv) At the fourth step, we consider our assessment of your
residual functional capacity and your past relevant work. If
you can still do your past relevant work, we will find that
you are not disabled. . . .
(v) At the fifth and last step, we consider our assessment of
your residual functional capacity [“RFC”] and
your age, education, and work experience to see if you can
make an adjustment to other work. If you can make an
adjustment to other work, we will find that you are not
disabled. If you cannot make an adjustment to other work, we
will find that you are disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. See also Heston
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d 528, 534 (6th Cir.
2001). “Through step four, the claimant bears the
burden of proving the existence and severity of limitations
caused by [his or] her impairments and the fact that [he or]
she is precluded from performing [his or] her past relevant
work.” Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336
F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). A claimant must establish a
medically determinable physical or mental impairment
(expected to last at least twelve months or result in death)
that rendered him unable to engage in substantial gainful
activity. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The burden transfers
to the Commissioner if the analysis reaches the fifth step
without a finding that the claimant is not disabled.
Combs v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 459 F.3d
640, 643 (6th Cir. 2006). At the fifth step, the Commissioner
is required to show that “other jobs in significant
numbers exist in the national economy that [the claimant]
could perform given [his or] her RFC and considering relevant
vocational factors.” Rogers, 486 F.3d at 241
(citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(v), (g)).
the five-step sequential analysis, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff had not been under a disability since he filed his
application on November 19, 2012. (Tr. 7- 22). At Step One,
the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since his application date. (Tr. 12). At
Step Two, he found Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: loss of visual acuity, chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease, hypertension, and degenerative disc
disease. (Id.). At Step Three, he concluded
Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of a
listed impairment. (Tr. 13). Next, the ALJ determined
Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(c) that is
limited to lifting and carrying fifty pounds occasionally and
twenty-five pounds frequently; standing and walking for six
hours in an eight-hour workday; sitting for six hours in an
eight-hour workday; no work requiring good far visual acuity
or depth perception; and no more than frequent exposure to
pulmonary irritants, moving mechanical parts, or high exposed
the ALJ found Plaintiff capable of performing past relevant
work as an assembler, he ended his analysis at Step Four.
court has thoroughly reviewed Plaintiff's medical record.
In lieu of summarizing his medical history here, the court
will make reference and provide citations to the record as
necessary in its discussion of the parties' arguments.
Application Reports and Administrative Hearing