United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
JONATHAN A. YOUNG, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr., District Judge
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO GRANT PLAINTIFF'S
MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE ADMINISTRATIVE RECORD (DE 18) AND
REMAND TO THE COMMISSIONER
Anthony P. Patti, Magistrate Judge
reasons that follow, it is RECOMMENDED that
the Court GRANT Plaintiff's motion for
judgment on the administrative record (DE 18) and
REMAND this case to the Commissioner and the
ALJ under Sentence Four of § 405(g) for further
consideration consistent with the report below.
Jonathan A. Young, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) for review of a final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying his
applications for social security disability insurance (DI)
benefits and supplemental security income (SSI) benefits.
This matter is before the United States Magistrate Judge for
a Report and Recommendation on Plaintiff's motion for
judgment on the administrative record and brief in support
(DEs 18, 19), the Commissioner's response to
Plaintiff's motion (DE 23), Plaintiff's reply brief
(DE 25), and the administrative record (DE 16).
filed his applications for DI and SSI benefits on November 4,
2013, alleging that he has been disabled since January 15,
2013, at age 44. (R. at 187-201.) Plaintiff's
applications were initially denied on April 24, 2014, and
upon reconsideration on July 11, 2014, and he sought a de
novo hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). (R. at 51-108, 121-26.) ALJ Troy M.
Patterson held a hearing on September 22, 2015, at which
Plaintiff was represented by a non-attorney representative.
(R. at 29-50.) The ALJ considered the evidence and determined
that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the
Social Security Act. (R. at 8-28.) On November 30, 2016, the
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review.
(R. at 1-6.) Thus, ALJ Patterson's decision became the
Commissioner's final decision.
then timely commenced the instant action on February 2, 2017.
Plaintiff's Medical History
combined medical records span the period from March 19, 2012
through November 25, 2015, and generally include complaints
of back, neck and shoulder pain, anxiety, depression and
bipolar disorder. (R. at 248-933.) The 649 pages of medical
records are mostly comprised of hospital and treatment
records from several different health care providers,
diagnostic testing, as well as consultative physical and
mental examinations. These records will be discussed as
testified at the September 22, 2015 hearing before ALJ
Patterson. (R. at 33-46.) Vocational expert Chelsea Brown
also provided testimony. (R. at 47-49.) The hearing testimony
will be cited as necessary below.
The Administrative Decision
November 4, 2015, ALJ Patterson issued an
“unfavorable” decision. At Step
1 of the sequential evaluation process,
ALJ found that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since January 15, 2013, the alleged onset
date. (R. at 13.) At Step 2, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: status
post bariatric surgery; residual effects of motor vehicle
accident; anxiety; and, depression. (R. at 13-15.) At
Step 3, the ALJ found that Plaintiff does
not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed
impairments. (R. at 15-16.) Prior to Step 4
of the sequential process, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff
has the residual functional capacity
perform light work … except he can frequently perform
postural activities but only occasionally climb ladders,
ropes, and scaffolds. He is limited to performing simple
routine tasks. He can only have occasional interaction with
coworkers, the public, and supervisors, and he cannot perform
production rate pace work.
(R. at 16-20.) At Step 4, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work. (R. at
20.) At Step 5, considering Plaintiff's
age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined
that there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in
the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. (R. at
20-21.) The ALJ therefore concluded that Plaintiff had not
been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security
Act, from January 15, 2013, through the date of the decision.
(R. at 21-22.)
Standard of Review
District Court has jurisdiction to review the
Commissioner's final administrative decision pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). When reviewing a case under the
Social Security Act, the Court “must affirm the
Commissioner's decision if it ‘is supported by
substantial evidence and was made pursuant to proper legal
standards.'” Rabbers v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 582 F.3d 647, 651 (6th Cir. at 2009) (quoting
Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241
(6th Cir. at 2007)); see also 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) (“[t]he findings of the Commissioner of Social
Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive . . . .”). Under this
standard, “substantial evidence is defined as
‘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, 486 F.3d at 241
(quoting Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994)).
“Substantial evidence supports a decision if
‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion' backs it
up.” Biestek v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 880
F.3d 778, 783 (6th Cir. 2017) (quoting Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). In deciding whether
substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision, the
court does “not try the case de novo, resolve
conflicts in evidence or decide questions of
credibility.” Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d 506,
509 (6th Cir. 2007); Rogers, 486 F.3d at 247
(“It is of course for the ALJ, and not the reviewing
court, to evaluate the credibility of witnesses, including
that of the claimant.”); Richardson, 402 U.S.
at 399 (“We therefore are presented with the not
uncommon situation of conflicting medical evidence. The trier
of fact has the duty to resolve that conflict.”).
Furthermore, the claimant “has the ultimate burden to
establish an entitlement to benefits by proving the existence
of a disability.” Moon v. Sullivan, 923 F.2d
1175, 1181 (6th Cir. 1990).
the substantial evidence standard is deferential, it is not
trivial. The Court must “‘take into account
whatever in the record fairly detracts from [the]
weight'” of the Commissioner's decision.
TNS, Inc. v. NLRB, 296 F.3d 384, 395 (6th Cir. 2002)
(quoting Universal Camera Corp. v. NLRB, 340 U.S.
474, 487 (1951)). Nevertheless, “if substantial
evidence supports the ALJ's decision, this Court defers
to that finding ‘even if there is substantial evidence
in the record that would have supported an opposite
conclusion.'” Blakley v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 406 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Key
v. Callahan, 109 F.3d 270, 273 (6th Cir. 1997)); see
also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (“The findings of the
Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported
by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive . . . .”);
see also Biestek, 880 F.3d at 783 (“[A]
decision supported by substantial evidence must stand, even
if we might decide the question differently based on the same
evidence.”) (citing Wright-Hines v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 597 F.3d 392, 395 (6th Cir. 2010)). Finally,
even if the ALJ's decision meets the substantial evidence
standard, “‘a decision of the Commissioner will
not be upheld where the SSA fails to follow its own
regulations and where that error prejudices a claimant on the
merits or deprives the claimant of a substantial
right.'” Rabbers, 582 F.3d at 651 (quoting
Bowen v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 478 F.3d 742, 746
(6th Cir. 2007)).
motion for judgment on the administrative record, Plaintiff
sets forth five areas in which he asserts the ALJ committed
reversible error. First, he contends that the ALJ erred in
crafting Plaintiff's physical RFC by ignoring relevant
evidence and failing to build an accurate and logical bridge
between evidence and result. (DE 19 at 8-11.) Second, he