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Bogardus v. Berryhill

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

March 28, 2018

HERBERT L. BOGARDUS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

         This 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. 17]. Now before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Doc. 18] and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 19 & 20]. Herbert L. Bogardus (“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.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On July 31, 2012, Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq., claiming a period of disability that began on January 1, 2010. [Tr. 66]. After his application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ. [Tr. 110]. A hearing was held on July 11, 2014, and a second hearing on March 16, 2015. [Tr. 31-65]. On August 27, 2015, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. [Tr. 14-26]. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review [Tr. 1-3], making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Having exhausted his administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed a Complaint with this Court on November 18, 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.

         II. ALJ FINDINGS

         The ALJ made the following findings:

1. The claimant last met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act on December 31, 2013.
2. The claimant did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the period from his alleged onset date of January 1, 2010 through his date last insured of December 31, 2013 (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq.).
3. Through the date last insured, the claimant had the following severe impairments: osteoarthritis and allied disorders, obesity, organic mental disorders and affective disorders (20 CFR 404.1520(c).
4. Through the date last insured, the claimant did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that, through the date last insured, the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except avoiding heights, hazards, exposure to weather, temperature extremes; avoiding climbing ladders, ropes, and scaffolds and crawling; occasionally climbing ramps and stairs, balancing, stooping, kneeling, and crouching; frequently but not constantly reaching, handling, and fingering with the upper extremities; understanding, remembering, and carrying out simple, one to three step tasks; avoiding interaction with the general public; occasionally interacting with coworkers and supervisors; adapting to infrequent changes; and performing tasks in which reading and writing are not essential.
6. Through the date last insured, the claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work. (20 CFR 404.1565).
7. The claimant was born on March 12, 1961 and was 52 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the date last insured. The claimant subsequently changed age category to closely approaching advanced age (20 CFR 404.1563).
8. The claimant has a marginal education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564).
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. Through the date last insured, 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 404.1569 and 404.1569(a).
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, at any time from January 1, 2010, the alleged onset date, through December 31, 2013, the date last insured. (20 CFR 404.1520(g)).

[Tr. 16-25].

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When 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).

         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.” 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. 1986)). Therefore, the Court will not “try the case de novo, nor resolve conflicts in the evidence, nor decide questions of credibility.” Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984) (citation omitted).

         On review, the plaintiff “bears the burden of proving his entitlement to benefits.” Boyes v. Sec'y. of Health & Human Servs., 46 F.3d 510, 512 (6th Cir. 1994) (citation omitted).

         IV. DISABILITY ELIGIBILITY

         “Disability” is 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 ...


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