United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
MARK S. LANCASTER, Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL,  Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
C. POPLIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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. 20]. Now before the Court
are Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment and
Memorandum in Support [Docs. 21 & 22] and
Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum
in Support [Docs. 23 & 24]. Mark S. Lancaster
(“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the
decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“the
ALJ”), the final decision of Defendant Andrew M. Saul
(“the Commissioner”). For the reasons that
follow, the Court will DENY
Plaintiff’s motion and GRANT the
January 13, 2015, Plaintiff filed an application for
supplemental security income pursuant to Title XVI of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq.,
alleging disability beginning on August 8, 2011. [Tr. 10, 59,
161]. After his application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ.
[Tr. 104–06]. A hearing was held on March 7, 2017. [Tr.
24–58]. On September 19, 2017, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff was not disabled. [Tr. 10–19]. The Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review on March
6, 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 April 4, 2018, 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 has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since January 13, 2015, the application date (20 CFR
416.971 et seq.).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: major
depressive disorder, recurrent, severe, without psychotic
features (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
3. 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 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
4. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find
that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(c) except
that the claimant could understand, remember, and carry out
simple and low-level detailed instructions and tasks; could
never have contact with the public, and occasionally have
contact with co-workers, and supervisors in an environment
where workplace changes are occasionally and gradually
5. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work
as an electrician’s helper (Dictionary of Occupational
Titles entry 824.261-022, medium, semiskilled, SVP 3). This
work does not require the performance of work-related
activities precluded by the claimant’s residual
functional capacity (20 CFR 416.965).
6. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, since January 13, 2015, the date
the application was filed (20 CFR 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).
is the inability “to 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 twelve months.” 42 U.S.C.
§§ 423(d)(1)(A) and 1382c(a)(3)(A). A claimant 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.
42 U.S.C. §§ 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 ...