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Buchanan v. Berryhill

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

April 12, 2017

SONYA LUTRICE BUCHANAN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Magistrate Judge Frensley

          MEMORANDUM OF OPINION

          KEVIN H. SHARP, CHIEF JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Sonya Lutrice Buchanan's (“Buchanan”) Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record (“Motion”) (Doc. No. 15), filed with a Memorandum in Support (Doc. No. 15-1). Defendant Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) filed a Response in Opposition to Buchanan's Motion. (Docket No. 16.) Upon consideration of the parties' filings and the transcript of the administrative record (Doc. No. 11), [1] and for the reasons given below, the Court will GRANT the Motion and REMAND the case pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to ensure that Buchanan's cervical degenerative disc disease and mental impairments are properly considered in conjunction with her other impairments in determining whether she had sufficient RFC to perform substantial gainful activity.

         I. Introduction

         On April 13, 2010 Buchanan filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act, alleging a disability onset of September 26, 2009 (the “alleged onset date”). (A.R. 138-52.) Buchanan's claim was denied at the initial and reconsideration stages of state agency review. (Id. at 69-73.) Buchanan subsequently requested de novo review of his case by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Id. at 91-92.) The ALJ heard the case on March 5, 2013, when Buchanan appeared, was represented by an attorney, and gave testimony. (Id. at 54.) Testimony was also received from an impartial vocational expert. At the conclusion of the hearing, the matter was taken under advisement until May 14, 2013, when the ALJ issued a written decision finding Buchanan not disabled. (Id. at 11.) That decision contains the following enumerated findings:

1. Buchanan meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2014.
2. Buchanan has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date (20 C.F.R. 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. Buchanan has the following severe impairments: obesity, pseudo-seizure disorder, and essential hypertension with resultant headaches (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
4. Buchanan 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. Buchanan has no physical limitations to the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform work a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: no exposure to heights or hazardous activities, and no driving. .
6. Buchanan can perform past relevant work as a medical billing clerk, school cafeteria worker, cashier, and child care attendant. This work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by her RFC (20 C.F.R. 404-1565 and 416.965).
7. Buchanan has not been under a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act from the alleged onset date through the date of this decision (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(f) and 416.920(f)).

(Id. at 42-49.)

         On August 22, 2014, the Appeals Council denied Buchanan's request for review of the ALJ's decision, thereby rendering that decision the final decision of the SSA. (Id. at 1.) This civil action was thereafter timely filed, and the Court has jurisdiction. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         II. Review of Record

          The Court adopts the summary of Buchanan's medical records from the ...


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