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Johnson v. Berryhill

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

September 19, 2017

TABATHA CELESTE BIGGS JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security[1], Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) to obtain judicial review of the final decision of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”), denying Plaintiff's claim for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) as provided under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (“the Act”). The case is currently pending on Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the administrative record (Doc. No. 12), to which Defendant has responded. (Doc. No. 14.)

         Upon review of the administrative record as a whole and consideration of the parties' filings, Plaintiff's motion (Doc. No. 12) is GRANTED. For the reasons stated herein, the Court REVERSES the decision of the Commissioner and REMANDS this case for further administrative proceedings.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff filed an application for SSI on February 25, 2010. See Transcript of the Administrative Record (Doc. No. 10) at 74-75.[2] She alleged a disability onset date of February 7, 2008, but this was later amended to February 25, 2010. AR 14, 74-75.[3] Plaintiff alleged that she was unable to work because of neuropathy, diabetes, seizures, and pain in her feet and legs. AR 113.[4]

         Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. AR 74-75. Pursuant to her request for a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified at a hearing before ALJ George L. Evans, III on January 20, 2012. AR 56. On April 2, 2012, the ALJ denied the claim. AR 77-79. On July 3, 2013, the Appeals Council accepted Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision and ultimately remanded the case to the ALJ for further consideration. AR 92. In the accompanying order, the Appeals Council instructed the ALJ to obtain additional evidence regarding Plaintiff's physical and mental impairments, provide further evaluation of Plaintiff's mental impairments, give further consideration to Plaintiff's residual functional capacity, provide further evaluation of Plaintiff's past work experience, and, if warranted by the expanded record, obtain evidence from a vocational expert “to clarify the effect of the assessed limitations on the claimant's occupational base.” AR 94-95.

         Following remand, Plaintiff appeared with counsel for an additional hearing before the ALJ on July 21, 2014. On October 27, 2014, the ALJ again denied Plaintiff's claim. AR 11-13. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's second request for review of the ALJ's decision (AR 1-3), thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. This civil action was thereafter timely filed, and the Court has jurisdiction. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         II. THE ALJ FINDINGS

         The ALJ issued a second unfavorable decision on October 27, 2014. AR 11-13. Based upon the record, the ALJ made the following enumerated findings:

1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 25, 2010, the application date (20 CFR 416.971 et seq.).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: obesity[, ] diabetes, spina bifida, history of seizures[, ] and major depressive disorder with anxious distress (416.920(c)).
3. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals 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, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(a) except that she would be mildly limited in doing simple jobs and judgment; she has ability to understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions and make judgments on simple work-related decisions. She is moderately limited in ability to interact with others; understanding, remembering, and carrying out complex instructions; and making judgments on complex work-related decisions. She is moderately limited in ability to interact appropriately with the public, supervisors, and coworkers, and ability to respond appropriately to usual work situations and to changes in a routine work setting. She can lift and carry occasionally up to 10 pounds. She can sit, stand, or walk continuously for one hour for each for [sic] total of eight hours each in an eight-hour day, i.e. eight hours sitting, eight hours standing, eight hours walking. She does not require a cane for ambulation. She could occasionally perform reaching overhead with either hand. She can occasionally use either foot for foot controls. She could perform frequent handling and fingering with bilateral hands. She could occasionally climb stairs and ramps and never climb ladders or scaffolds. She could occasionally bend, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl or be around unprotected heights. She could occasionally be around moving mechanical parts, operating motor vehicle, and humidity/wetness. She could have no exposure to significant pulmonary irritants.[5]
5. The claimant has no past relevant work (20 CFR 416.965).
6. The claimant was born on February 11, 1978 and was 32 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44, on the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.963).
7. The claimant has a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 416.964).
8. Transferability of job skills is not an issue in this case because the claimant does not have past relevant work (20 CFR 416.968).
9. 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 416.969 and 416.969(a)).
10. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since February 25, 2010, the date the ...

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