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Ambrose v. Saul

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

June 28, 2019

BILLY PRESTON AMBROSE, JR.
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL Commissioner of Social Security[1]

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BARBARA D. HOLMES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         To: The Honorable Waverly D. Crenshaw, Chief District Judge.

         Plaintiff filed 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”) denying Plaintiff's claim for period of disability, Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) as provided under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (“the Act”). The case is currently pending on Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the administrative record (See Docket Entry (“DE”) 13), to which Defendant has filed a response. See DE 15. Plaintiff has also filed a subsequent reply to Defendant's response. See DE 16. 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 4.

         Upon review of the administrative record as a whole and consideration of the parties' filings, the undersigned Magistrate Judge respectfully recommends that Plaintiff's motion (DE 13) be DENIED.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff filed an application for SSI on March 4, 2014 and a subsequent application for a period of disability and DIB on April 4, 2014. See Transcript of the Administrative Record (DE 8) at 17, 62.[2] He alleged a disability onset date of February 28, 2014. AR 17, 63. Plaintiff asserted that he was unable to work because of a nervous disorder, learning problems, blindness, and dizziness. AR 86.

         Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. AR 17, 62, 77. Pursuant to his request for a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified at a hearing before ALJ Shannon H. Heath on December 13, 2016. AR 38. The ALJ denied the claim on August 3, 2017. AR 14-16. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision on May 10, 2018 (AR 1-3), thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. This civil action was thereafter timely filed and the Court has jurisdiction. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         II. THE ALJ FINDINGS

         The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision and made the following enumerated findings based upon the record:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2020.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 1, 2015, 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; generalized anxiety disorder; migraine headaches; vertigo; and anisohyperopic amblyopia and esotropia, status post eye surgery (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(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, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: The claimant should not climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, or work around unprotected heights and moving machinery. He can understand, remember, and carry out simple and detailed tasks, but not complex tasks. The claimant can maintain concentration, persistence and pace for same tasks with normal breaks spread throughout the day. He can interact with the public occasionally and with supervisors and coworkers appropriately. Additionally, the claimant can adapt to routine changes in the workplace.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on March 21, 1978 and was 37 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).
8. The claimant has at least a high school 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 October 1, 2015, through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).

AR 20-31.

         III. REVIEW OF THE RECORD

         The parties and the ALJ have thoroughly summarized and discussed the medical and testimonial evidence of the administrative record. Accordingly, the Court will discuss those matters only to the extent necessary to analyze the parties' arguments.

         IV. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW A. Standard of Review

         The determination of disability under the Act is an administrative decision. The only questions before this Court upon judicial review are: (i) whether the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence, and (ii) whether the Commissioner made legal errors in the process of reaching the decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is defined as “more than a mere scintilla” and “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). If substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision, that decision must be affirmed “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)). In other words:

The Commissioner's findings are not subject to reversal merely because substantial evidence exists in the record to support a different conclusion. The substantial evidence standard presupposes that there is a “zone of choice” within which the Commissioner may proceed without interference from the courts. If the ...

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