United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee
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. 16].
before the Court is Plaintiff's Amended Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 27
& 28] and Defendant's Amended Motion for Summary
Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 30 & 31]. Paul
R. Church (“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
August 11, 2014, Plaintiff protectively filed an application
for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income benefits pursuant to Title II and XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq. and
1381 et seq., claiming a period of disability that
began on April 10, 2012. [Tr. 10, 58-59]. After his
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration,
Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ. [Tr. 87]. A
hearing was held on February 7, 2017. [Tr. 24-37]. On May 31,
2017, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. [Tr.
10-19]. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review on February 27, 2018 [Tr. 1-6], making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
exhausted his administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed a
Complaint with this Court on March 16, 2018, seeking judicial
review of the Commissioner's final decision under Section
405(g) of the Social Security Act. [Doc. 1]. Plaintiff filed
his first Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [Doc. 17] on
June 26, 2018, to which the Commissioner responded through
his Motion for Summary Judgment on September 7, 2018 [Doc.
21]. However, the parties subsequently filed a Joint Motion
to Extend Period for Responsive Briefing [Doc. 25] due to the
submission of a Supplemental Transcript [Doc. 24]. The Court
granted the joint motion on September 12, 2018 [Doc. 26].
Plaintiff filed his Amended Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings [Doc. 27] on September 28, 2018, and the
Commissioner filed his Amended Motion for Summary Judgment
[Doc. 30] on October 23, 2018. This case was subsequently
reassigned to the undersigned on May 3, 2019. [Doc. 32]. 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, 2017.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since April 10, 2012, the alleged onset date (20 CFR
404.1571 et seq. and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and
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 the full range of medium work
as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c).
6. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work
as a warehouse worker tow motor operator. This work does not
require the performance of work-related activities precluded
by the claimant's residual functional capacity (20 CFR
404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from April 10, 2012, through the
date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(f) and 416.920(f)).
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 ...