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Templeton v. Social Security Administration

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Cookeville Division

March 20, 2018

CLAUDE EDWARD TEMPLETON, Plaintiff,
v.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          Honorable Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr. Judge.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO DENY PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE RECORD [12]

          DAVID R. GRAND, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Claude Edward Templeton (“Templeton”) brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), challenging the final decision of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying his applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under the Social Security Act (the “Act”). On December 8, 2016, Templeton filed a Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record and a Memorandum in Support. (Docs. #12, 13). On February 1, 2017, the Commissioner filed a response in opposition to Templeton's motion. (Doc. #16). On January 30, 2018, this matter was referred to this Court for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).

         I. RECOMMENDATION

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that substantial evidence supports the Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”) conclusion that Templeton is not disabled under the Act. Accordingly, the Court recommends that Templeton's Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record (Doc. #12) be DENIED, and that, pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the ALJ's decision be AFFIRMED.

         II. REPORT

         A. Procedural History

         After Templeton's disability applications were denied at the initial level on May 5, 2011 (Tr. 87-90), and on reconsideration on October 24, 1011 (Tr. 96-99), he timely requested an administrative hearing, which was held on December 18, 2012, before ALJ Joan A. Lawrence. (Tr. 18-29). On April 11, 2013, the ALJ issued a written decision finding that Templeton is not disabled under the Act. (Tr. 68-78). Subsequently, on May 8, 2014, the Appeals Council vacated the ALJ's decision and remanded the matter for a new hearing and decision. (Tr. 83-85). Thus, a second administrative hearing was held before ALJ Lawrence on March 17, 2015; Templeton, who was represented by attorney John Wayne Allen, testified at that hearing. (Tr. 2-16). On August 18, 2015, ALJ Lawrence issued a written decision again finding that Templeton is not disabled under the Act. (Tr. 40-56). On June 22, 2016, the Appeals Council denied review. (Tr. 31-33). Templeton timely filed for judicial review of the final decision on August 24, 2016. (Doc. #1).

         B. Framework for Disability Determinations

         Under the Act, SSI and DIB are available only for those who have a “disability.” See Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007). The Act defines “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.

42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Commissioner's regulations provide that disability is to be determined through the application of a five-step sequential analysis:

Step One: If the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity, benefits are denied without further analysis.
Step Two: If the claimant does not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments that “significantly limits . . . physical or mental ability to do basic work activities, ” benefits are denied without further analysis.
Step Three: If the claimant is not performing substantial gainful activity, has a severe impairment that is expected to last for at least twelve months, and the severe impairment meets or equals one of the impairments listed in the regulations, the claimant is conclusively presumed to be disabled regardless of age, education, or work experience.
Step Four: If the claimant is able to perform his or her past relevant work, benefits are denied without further analysis.
Step Five: Even if the claimant is unable to perform his or her past relevant work, if other work exists in the national economy that the claimant can perform, in view of his or her age, education, and work experience, benefits are denied.

Scheuneman v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 2011 WL 6937331, at *7 (E.D. Mich. Dec. 6, 2011) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520); see also Heston v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d 528, 534 (6th Cir. 2001). “The burden of proof is on the claimant throughout the first four steps …. If the analysis reaches the fifth step without a finding that claimant is not disabled, the burden transfers to the [defendant].” Preslar v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994).

         C. Background

         1.Templeton's Reports and Testimony

         At the time of the second administrative hearing, Templeton was 56 years old, and at 5'7” tall, weighed 136 pounds. (Tr. 5-6). He was divorced and lived in a trailer with his sister and seven other family members. (Tr. 15, 195, 227). He completed high school but had no further education. (Tr. 6, 204-05). Templeton worked at a lumberyard for ...


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