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Clark v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration

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

May 23, 2018

THOMAS LEWIS CLARK
v.
COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION[1]

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Honorable Waverly D. Crenshaw, Chief District Judge

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the administrative record. See Docket Entry (“DE”) 14. Plaintiff brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) to obtain judicial review of the final decision of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”). At issue is whether the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) erred in finding that Plaintiff was “not disabled, ” and therefore not entitled to Supplement Security Income (“SSI”). (See Administrative Record, DE 10, at 16-18).[2] This matter has been referred to the undersigned, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), for initial consideration and a report and recommendation. See DE 3.

         Upon review of the administrative record and consideration of the parties' filings, I find no error that would necessitate remand in this case and therefore recommend that Plaintiff's motion (DE 14) be DENIED.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff protectively filed an application for SSI on June 27, 2012 due to alleged liver damage, a “bad back, ” depression, and anxiety, with an onset date of January 1, 2012. (Tr. 75-76). His application was denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. 75, 77). Pursuant to his request for a hearing before an ALJ, Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified at a hearing before ALJ Joan A. Lawrence on March 15, 2016. (Tr. 48).[3] On April 21, 2016, the ALJ denied the claim. (Tr. 16-18). On May 11, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for a review of the ALJ's decision; therefore, the ALJ's decision stands as the final determination of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-3).

         As part of the decision, the ALJ made the following enumerated findings:

1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 27, 2012,, the application date (20 CFR 416.971 et seq.).
2. The claimant has the following “severe” impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine; degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine; hepatitis B and cirrhosis of the liver in a setting of a history of polysubstance abuse, including I.V. drug use; and an adjustment disorder with anxiety and depression related to psychosocial stressors (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
3. 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 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
4. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except that he is limited to occasional bending, stooping, climbing, and crawling; and he should avoid respiratory irritants. He can deal with people and change up to 1/3 of the day.
5. The claimant has no past relevant work (20 CFR 416.965).
6. The claimant was born on August 17, 1966 and was 45 years old, which is defined as a younger individual 18-49, on the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.963).
7. The claimant has a limited education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 416.964).
8. Transferability of job skills is not an issue because the claimant does not have past relevant work (20 CFR 416.968).
9. 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 416.969 and 416.969(a)).
10. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since June 27, 2012, the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.920(g)).

(Tr. 21-29).

         On appeal, Plaintiff submits three assertions of error: (1) that the ALJ erred by failing to find that Plaintiff meets Listing 1.04; (2) that the ALJ improperly rejected the opinion of a treating physician; and (3) that the ALJ improperly rejected his “significant psychological restrictions.” DE 15 at 16-22. Plaintiff therefore requests that this case be reversed and benefits awarded, or, alternatively, remanded pursuant to sentence six of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for further administrative proceedings. Id. at 18.[4]

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. ...


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