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Clark v. Colvin

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

January 17, 2017

DEBORAH G. CLARK, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Sharp Chief Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JOE B. BROWN United States Magistrate Judge

         To The Honorable Kevin H. Sharp, Chief United States District Judge

         The Plaintiff brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denying her applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. For the following reasons, the Magistrate Judge RECOMMENDS that the Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the administrative record (Doc. 16) be DENIED and the Commissioner's decision be AFFIRMED.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income in 2011. (Doc. 13, pp. 115-116).[1] The SSA denied her applications initially and upon reconsideration. (Doc. 13, pp. 115-116, 123-124). After an administrative hearing (Doc. 13, pp. 37-62), the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) issued an unfavorable decision (Doc. 13, pp. 125-144). The Appeals Council vacated the decision and remanded the case to the ALJ. (Doc. 13, pp. 145-149). After conducting a second administrative hearing (Doc. 13, pp. 64-96), the ALJ again issued an unfavorable decision (Doc. 13, pp. 10-35). The Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's decision. (Doc. 13, pp. 1-6).

         The Plaintiff then filed a complaint seeking review of the ALJ's decision. (Doc. 1). This case was referred to the undersigned pursuant to Rule 72 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A)-(B). (Doc. 5). Presently pending is the Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the administrative record (Doc. 16) to which the Defendant responded (Doc. 18). No reply was filed. The matter is ripe for resolution.

         II. THE ADMINISTRATIVE RECORD AND DECISION

         As the Plaintiff does not question the ALJ's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) determination and solely challenges the transferability of her vocational skills, her medical records are not relevant to this Report and Recommendation (“R&R”). While the administrative record (Doc. 13) is incorporated herein by reference, only the portion pertinent to the Plaintiff's claims of error is discussed in detail.

         A. The Administrative Hearing

         During the administrative hearing the vocational expert (“VE”) testified that the Plaintiff's clerical skills of typing, data entry, filing, billing, handling mail, taking appointments, and social interaction from her previous job as a medical assistant were transferable to the roles of medical records clerk, medical office receptionist, and hospital admitting clerk. (Doc. 13, pp. 87-88, 92). An individual with the Plaintiff's RFC could perform these three new jobs and a variety of sedentary, unskilled jobs. (Doc. 13, pp. 88-90).

         The Plaintiff's prior job as a medical assistant was classified as skilled, light, specific vocational profile (“SVP”) 6. (Doc. 13, p. 85). The three new positions were classified as semiskilled and sedentary. (Doc. 13, pp. 87-88).

         The three new jobs existed in significant numbers locally and nationally: medical records clerk-1, 800 jobs in Tennessee and 110, 000 in the country; medical office receptionist-800 jobs in Tennessee and 52, 000 in the country; and hospital admitting clerk-1, 300 in Tennessee and 100, 000 in the country. (Doc. 13, pp. 87-88).

         According to the VE, an individual engaged in clerical and billing practices in the medical field now requires retraining after being absent for a year to eighteen months. (Doc. 13, p. 91). A few years ago, retraining would be required within eight to twelve months. (Doc. 13, p. 91). An individual who has been out of the skilled position for ten years would require substantial retraining concerning procedure codes and software usage. (Doc. 13, p. 91). Disuse of these clerical skills would result in a functional decline over time, but some skills would be retained. (Doc. 13, p. 92). Whereas billing practices have changed quite a bit over time, data entry skills would be retained if the individual could frequently use her upper extremities. (Doc. 13, pp. 92-93).

         Though the Plaintiff was fifty-two years old and had a GED education, the VE's testimony concerning transferability did not change. (Doc. 13, p. 96).

         B. The Administrative Decision

         After considering the record and the hearing testimony, the ALJ made the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:

(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 December 8, 2011, the amended alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
(3) The claimant has the following severe impairments: obesity, left ankle sprain with history of fusion, Hepatitis C, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, mood disorder and personality ...

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