United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
STUART W. STEINER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
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. 16]. Now before the
Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and
Memorandum in Support [Docs. 17 & 18], Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs.
19 & 20], and Plaintiff's Reply Brief [Doc. 21].
Stuart W. Steiner (“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
September 5, 2012, Plaintiff filed an application for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income benefits pursuant to Title II and XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq.,
and 1381 et seq., claiming a period of disability
that began on August 9, 2012. [Tr. 136, 150, 254-64]. After
his application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ.
[Tr. 226]. A hearing was held on September 23, 2015. [Tr.
37-96]. On November 25, 2015, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
was not disabled. [Tr. 19-32]. The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review [Tr. 1-3], making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
exhausted his administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed a
Complaint with this Court on January 2, 2017, 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 meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2015.
2. The claimant has engaged in substantial gainful activity
since August 9, 2012, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571
et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: bipolar
disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(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 could occasionally climb ramps and
stairs, never climb ladders and scaffolds, frequently stoop,
never kneel, occasionally crouch, and never crawl. Regarding
his mental limitations he can perform simple, routine and
repetitive tasks but not at a production rate pace (e.g.,
assembly line work) and make simple work-related decisions.
The claimant could respond appropriately to supervisors and
co-workers on an occasional basis. He could never respond
appropriately to the public. In addition to normal breaks,
the claimant would be off task 5 percent of the time in an
8-hour workday as a result of his moderate limitations of
concentration, persistence or 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 June 26, 1965 and was 47 years
old, which is defined as an individual closely approaching
advanced age, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR
404.1563 and 416.963).
8. The claimant has a limited education and is able to
communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).
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. 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, 404.1569(a),
416.969, and 416.969(a)).
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from August 9, 2012, through the
date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).
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. 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).
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).
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 months.” 42 U.S.C.