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Commons v. Saul

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

September 23, 2019

THOMAS S. COMMONS Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CHRISTOPHER H. STEGER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Thomas Commons seeks judicial review under § 205(g) of the Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), from his denial by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration regarding his application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-34, 1381-83f. [See Doc. 1]. The parties consented to the entry of final judgment by a United States Magistrate Judge according to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), with an appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. [Doc. 12].

         For reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [Doc. 13] will be DENIED, the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 15] will be GRANTED, and judgment will be entered AFFIRMING the Commissioner's decision.

         I. Procedural History

         In November 2015, Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under Title II of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434, alleging disability as of September 15, 2015. (Tr. 10, Doc. 8). Plaintiff's claims were denied initially as well as on reconsideration. As a result, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge.

         In October 2017, ALJ Elizabeth Neuhoff heard testimony from Plaintiff and a vocational expert, as well as argument from Plaintiff's attorney. The ALJ then rendered her decision, finding that Plaintiff was not under a "disability" as defined in the Act. (Tr. 10-17).

         Following the ALJ's decision, Plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council review his denial; however, that request was denied. (Tr. 7). Exhausting his administrative remedies, Plaintiff then filed his Complaint on April 18, 2018, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision under § 405(g). [Doc. 1]. The parties filed competing dispositive motions, and this matter is now ripe for adjudication.

         II. Findings by the ALJ

         The ALJ made the following findings concerning her decision on Plaintiff's application for benefits:

1. Plaintiff meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2020.
2. Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 15, 2015, the alleged onset date (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1571 et seq. and 416.971 et. seq.).
3. Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus with recent diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy (20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
4. Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926).
5. Absent certain limitations, Plaintiff retained the residual-functional capacity to perform medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. ...

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