United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
MARK S. HUFFSTETLER, 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. 15].
before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 16 & 17] and
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in
Support [Docs. 23 & 24]. Mark S. Huffstetler
(“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 GRANT IN PART
Plaintiff's motion and DENY the
12, 2014, Plaintiff protectively filed an application for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income benefits pursuant to Titles 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 June 1, 2013. [Tr. 11, 199-213]. After his
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration,
Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ. [Tr. 114]. A
hearing was held on March 21, 2017. [Tr. 40-56]. On July 21,
2017, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. [Tr.
11-22]. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review on April 9, 2018 [Tr. 1- 5], making the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
exhausted his administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed a
Complaint with this Court on May 30, 2018, seeking judicial
review of the Commissioner's final decision under Section
405(g) of the Social Security Act. [Doc. 2]. 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 September 30, 2013.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since June 1, 2013, the alleged onset date (20 CFR
404.1571 et seq. and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
peripheral neuropathy; hypertension; status post cerebellar
hemorrhage; osteoarthritis; persistent depressive disorder;
social anxiety disorder; and unspecified trauma and stressor
related disorder (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 light work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except that the claimant
should avoid extreme cold; can frequently (two-thirds of the
workday) deal with people and change; and can concentrate for
at least two hours at a time.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on November 9, 1965 and was 47 years
old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on
the alleged disability onset date. The claimant subsequently
changed age category to closely approaching advanced age (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 transferrable 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 September 16, 2014, through
the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and
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 ...