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Williams v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville

July 8, 2019

KENNETH RAY WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DEBRA C. POPLIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This 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. 12]. Now before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 13 & 14] and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 15 & 16]. Kenneth Ray Williams (“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 DENY Plaintiff's motion and GRANT the Commissioner's motion.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On May 4, 2015, 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 7, 2014. [Tr. 14, 136-38]. After his application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ. [Tr. 86]. A hearing was held on August 24, 2016. [Tr. 32-53]. On September 29, 2016, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. [Tr. 14-23]. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on September 29, 2017 [Tr. 2-6], making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Having exhausted his administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed a Complaint with this Court on October 25, 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.

         II. ALJ FINDINGS

         The ALJ made the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through June 30, 2019.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 7, 2014, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: osteoarthrosis and allied disorders (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 lift and carry (including upward pulling) fifty pounds occasionally and twenty-five pounds frequently. He can stand, walk, and sit (with normal breaks) about six hours each in an eight hour day. He can perform unlimited pushing/pulling (including hand/foot controls) within his exertional limitations. He can perform frequent postural activities. He has no manipulative, visual, communicative or environmental limitations.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565).
7. The claimant was born on July 19, 1955 and was 59 years old, which is defined as an individual of “advanced age” on the alleged disability onset date. The claimant subsequently changed age category to “closely approaching retirement age” (20 CFR 404.1563).
8. The claimant has a “limited” education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564).
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 and 404.1569(a)).
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from November 7, 2014, through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g)).

[Tr. 16-23].

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When 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).

         Substantial 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. ...


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