United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b), Rule 73 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and
the consent of the parties [Doc. 26]. Now before the Court
are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and
Memorandum in Support [Docs. 33 & 33-1] and
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in
Support [Docs. 34 & 35]. Robert Keith Jenkins
(“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the
decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“the
ALJ”), the final decision of Defendant Nancy A.
Berryhill (“the Commissioner”). For the reasons
that follow, the Court will GRANT IN PART
Plaintiff's motion and DENY the
30, 2013, 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 November 11,
2011. [Tr. 14, 140-41]. After his application was denied
initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a
hearing before an ALJ. [Tr. 94-95]. A hearing was held on
June 11, 2015. [Tr. 30-56]. On September 4, 2015, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff was not disabled. [Tr. 14-23]. The
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on
October 21, 2016 [Tr. 3-8], making the ALJ's decision the
final decision of the Commissioner.
exhausted his administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed a
Complaint with this Court on December 20, 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.
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 not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since November 11, 2011, the alleged onset date (20
CFR 404.1571 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, neck disorder
status post injury and fusion with associated upper extremity
limitations, and diabetes mellitus (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).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light (to medium) work as
defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b). The claimant is unable to
perform frequent pushing and pulling movements with arm or
leg controls. The claimant is unable to climb and crawl. The
claimant is limited to occasional overhead reaching.
6. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work
as a training development specialist. This work does not
require the performance of work-related activities precluded
by the claimant's residual functional capacity (20 CFR
7. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from November 11, 2011, through
the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(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).
means an individual cannot “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) and 1382c(a)(3)(A). An
individual will only be considered disabled:
if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of
such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous
work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy, regardless of
whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he
lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or
whether he would be hired if he applied for work.
§§ 423(d)(2)(A) and 1382c(a)(3)(B).
is evaluated pursuant to a five-step analysis summarized as
1. If claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, he is
2. If claimant is not doing substantial gainful activity, his
impairment must be severe before he can be found to be
3. If claimant is not doing substantial gainful activity and
is suffering from a severe impairment that has lasted or is
expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve
months, and his impairment meets or equals a listed
impairment, claimant is presumed disabled without further
4. If claimant's impairment does not prevent him from
doing his past relevant work, he is not disabled.
5. Even if claimant's impairment does prevent him from
doing his past relevant work, if other work exists in the
national economy that accommodates his residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) and vocational factors (age,
education, skills, etc.), he is not disabled.
Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525,
529 (6th Cir. 1997) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520). A
claimant's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) is assessed between steps three and four
and is “based on all the relevant medical and other
evidence in your case record.” 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4) and -(e), 416.920(a)(4), -(e). An RFC is the
most a claimant can do despite his limitations. §§
404.1545(a)(1) and 416.945(a)(1).
claimant bears the burden of proof at the first four steps.
Walters, 127 F.3d at 529. The burden shifts
to the Commissioner at step five. Id. At the fifth
step, the Commissioner must prove that there is work
available in the national economy that the claimant could
perform. Her v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 203 F.3d
388, 391 (6th Cir. 1999) (citing Bowen v. Yuckert,
482 U.S. 137, 146 (1987)).
presents several challenges to the ALJ's finding that he
was not disabled. First, Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ
failed to properly analyze whether he met several Listings,
including Listings 1.02, 1.03, 1.04, 11.08, 11.17, and 11.19.
[Doc. 33-1 at 10-16]. Next, Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ
failed to assign significant weight to his treating
sources' opinions and to his testimony regarding his
level of pain. [Id.at 1, 10, 16-18]. Lastly,
Plaintiff claims that the ALJ failed to consider the limiting
effects of several of his medical conditions as severe
impairments. [Id. at 10]. The Court will address
Plaintiff's specific allegations of error in turn.