United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
Honorable Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr., Chief Judge.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Alistair E. Newbern, U.S. Magistrate Judge.
before the Court in this Social Security appeal is Plaintiff
Carolyn Sue Jackson's Motion for Judgment on the
Administrative Record (Doc. No. 14), to which the
Commissioner of Social Security has responded (Doc. No. 15).
Jackson has filed a reply in support of her motion. (Doc. No.
16.) Upon consideration of these filings and the transcript
of the administrative record (Doc. No. 12),  and for the
reasons given below, the Magistrate Judge RECOMMENDS that
Jackson's motion for judgment be DENIED and that decision
of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED.
Statement of the Case
filed an application for disability insurance benefits under
Title II of the Social Security Act on July 5, 2011, alleging
disability onset as of May 1, 2011 due to spinal injury, back
pain, hepatitis C, depression, and anxiety. (Tr. 14, 153.)
Tennessee Disability Determination Services (DDS) denied
Jackson's claims upon initial review and again following
her request for reconsideration. Jackson subsequently
requested de novo review by an Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ). The ALJ heard the case on May 16, 2013, when
Jackson appeared with counsel and gave testimony. (Tr.
33-61.) A vocational expert also testified at the hearing.
The ALJ took the matter under advisement until June 21, 2013,
when she issued a written decision finding Jackson not
disabled. (Tr. 14-22.) That decision contains the following
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2016.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since May 11, 2011, the alleged onset date (20 CFR
404.1571 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: a back
disorder and hepatitis C (20 CFR 404.1520(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).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to: sit, stand, and walk each for 6 hours
of an 8-hour day; frequently lift/carry 10 pounds;
occasionally lift 20 pounds; and never be exposed to hazards
found in the workplace. She would . . . also require a
sit/stand option. She would be further limited to simple,
repetitive work consisting of 1-2 step tasks and
instructions. She should perform no work that requires
reading or writing as part of the regular job duties. She
would be better if shown how to do the task rather than told.
6. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work
as a garment sorter and a sales attendant. This work does not
require the performance of work-related activities precluded
by the claimant's residual functional capacity (20 CFR
7. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from May 1, 2011, through the
date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(f)).
(Tr. 16-18, 21.)
August 18, 2014, the Appeals Council denied Jackson's
request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-3),
rendering that decision final. This action was timely filed
on October 17, 2014. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Review of the Record
summarized Jackson's hearing testimony as follows:
At the hearing, the claimant testified that she works 25
hours a week at Goodwill. Before May 2011, she worked
full-time until her pain became unbearable. She lives with
her adult son and a male friend. She is able to drive and
take the bus. She attends church from time to time. She
enjoys performing and spending time with her son. She stated
that she is disabled due to illiteracy. She has cirrhosis of
the liver from past drug use. She has not used drugs in 18
years. She receives mental health treatment from Victoria
Cook. She testified that she is not taking liver medications.
She takes hydrocodone for pain twice a day. She is supposed
to see a chiropractor for her spine. She stated that she can
sit for 5 hours to work, but her pain flares up when she goes
home. She admitted she does not have difficulty standing to
wash dishes. She testified that she could stand up to one
hour. She cannot lift more than 10 pounds. She can walk 30
minutes. She testified that she can lift a gallon of milk and
she can occasionally lift a case of water. Her pain
medications make her drowsy. She has difficulty comprehending
what she reads. She needs help grocery shopping. She can
write a grocery list. Her imaginary friends came with her to
the hearing. She stated that she sees them every day. They
protect the claimant and tell her to lock her doors.
brief, Jackson gives the following summary of the
radiographic evidence in the record:
An x-ray of the lumbar spine from May of 2009 revealed mild
anterior endplate spurring inferiorly as well as facet
arthropathy at ¶ 5-S1. Imaging studies of the bilateral
feet from June of 2010 revealed hallux valgus deformity and
small plantar calcaneal bone spurs. An x-ray of the left hip
from June of 2010 showed mild left hip osteoarthritis. An
x-ray of the cervical spine from June of 2010 revealed
spondylosis with C5-6 degenerative disc disease and
associated small osteophytes impinging upon the right and
left intervertebral neural foramina.
No. 14-1, PageID# 438 (citing Tr. 267, 277-80).)
March 17, 2011, Jackson presented as a new patient to Dr.
Suzette A. Kelly, M.D., complaining of back pain and pain and
tingling in her fingers and toes. (Tr. 314.) Jackson also
requested “a note from her doctor for her to be put on
light duty at work[.]” (Id.) Dr. Kelly made
note of Jackson's chronic conditions, including hepatitis
C, tobacco use disorder, cervical spondylosis, and cirrhosis
of the liver. (Id.) Jackson complained to Dr. Kelly
of abdominal pain; paresthesia in her hands that was
moderately severe; depression, fear of pain, and being
stressed at work; moderately severe neck pain associated with
stiffness; and back pain with moderate myalgia of the left
leg associated with numbness. (Id.) Dr. Kelly noted
that Jackson was anxious, crying, obese, depressed, and
displayed poor hygiene. (Tr. 315.) Physical examination
produced normal results, aside from a rash on Jackson's
face which was thought to be rosacea. (Id.) It was
noted that she was “walking around in room, as she
[complains of] [left] leg numbness.” (Id.) Dr.
Kelly ordered lab work to investigate the cause of the pain
and tingling in Jackson's extremities, noted that
Jackson's chronic conditions were stable, and recommended
that she use over-the-counter pain medications for her spinal
on this initial office visit and examination, Dr. Kelly
completed a Medical Source Statement (MSS) of Ability To Do
Work-Related Activities (Physical), dated March 17, 2011.
(Tr. 285-90.) In the MSS, Dr. Kelly opined that Jackson's
physical conditions and symptoms resulted in the following
limitations: she could occasionally lift/carry up to 10
pounds, but could never lift or carry any weight above 10
pounds; could sit, stand, and walk in combination for a total
of two hours and thirty minutes out of an eight-hour day;
could use her hands occasionally for reaching, handling, and
fingering, but never to push or pull; could occasionally
operate foot controls; could frequently climb stairs, ramps,
ladders, or scaffolds; and could continuously balance and
kneel, frequently crouch and crawl, but only occasionally
stoop. (Tr. 285-88.) Dr. Kelly further opined that
Jackson's “anxiety syndrome” left her unable
to tolerate a noisy workplace, temperature extremes, or
pulmonary irritants. (Tr. 289.) Dr. Kelly also wrote a
“To Whom it May Concern” letter reflecting her
opinion that, based on the examination on March 17, 2011, and
Jackson's medical history, she will “have to be on
light duty; limit lifting to 5 pounds and restrict pushing
and pulling at work.” (Tr. 362.)
April 18, 2011, Jackson was again seen by Dr. Kelly, who
noted that Jackson “presents today for fasting labs and
paperwork to be filled out for restricted duties [at] work[,
] [complains of] neck, shoulder and back pain.” (Tr.
316.) Jackson also reported weakness and stiffness associated
with her neck pain, as well as anxiety. (Id.) Dr.
Kelly did not perform a physical examination on this date.
She did issue another letter outlining Jackson's work
restrictions, stating that, as a result of cervical
spondylosis “which is osteoarthritis of the lower
cervical spine . . . caus[ing] neck pain that radiates into
the back of her head, shoulders and arms, ” Jackson
would have life-long restrictions against “lifting,
pushing or pulling anything more than 5 pounds.” (Tr.
received mental health therapy from Victoria Cook, L.P.C.,
MHSP, during 2011 and 2012. On April 21, 2011, Ms. Cook wrote
a letter in support of Jackson's need to modify her work
schedule, stating as follows:
Carolyn Jackson is receiving counseling and psychotropic drug
therapy for major depression and panic disorder. Her
condition is severe and chronic. I fear that if she continues
to work a forty hour week it will result in a mental
breakdown. Therefore, it is my recommendation that Ms.