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Santillan v. Social Security Administration

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

February 20, 2018


          Honorable Aleta A. Trauger, District Judge.



         Pending before the Court in this Social Security appeal is Plaintiff Frank Santillan's Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record (Doc. No. 14), to which Defendant Social Security Administration (SSA) has responded (Doc. No. 16). Santillan has filed a reply. (Doc. No. 17.) Upon consideration of the parties' filings and the transcript of the administrative record (Doc. No. 10), [1] and for the reasons given below, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) be REVERSED and REMANDED.

         I. Introduction

         Santillan filed an application for supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act on August 8, 2012, alleging disability onset on that date due to manic depressive disorder, high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression. (Tr. 17, 172.) The state agency denied his claim upon initial review and again following his request for reconsideration. Santillan subsequently requested de novo review of his case by an Administrative Law Judge, who heard the case on June 30, 2014; Santillan appeared with counsel and gave testimony. (Tr. 17, 36-67.) A vocational expert (VE) also testified. After the hearing, the ALJ took the matter under advisement until August 29, 2014, when she issued a written decision finding White not disabled. (Tr. 17-31.) That decision contains the following enumerated findings:

1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 8, 2012, the application date (20 CFR 416.971 et seq.).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: large exotropia, diabetes mellitus, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and obesity (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
3. 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 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 medium work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(c). The claimant can lift and/or carry 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently. The claimant can stand and/or walk for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday and sit for 6 hours in an 8hour workday. The claimant can frequently climb. The claimant should avoid tasks that require depth perception. The claimant can maintain concentration, pace, and persistence for 2 hours at a time during an 8 hour workday. The claimant can have occasional interaction with coworkers and supervisors; no interaction with the general public; and can adapt to infrequent changes in the workplace.
5. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 416.965).
6. The claimant was born on July 30, 1959 and was 53 years old, which is defined as an individual closely approaching advanced age, on the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.963).
7. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 416.964).
8. 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 transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
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 August 8, 2012, the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.920(g)).

(Tr. 19-20, 23, 29-31.)

         On July 31, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Santillan's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-4), rendering that decision final. This action was timely filed thereafter. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c).

         II. Review of the Record

         The ALJ summarized the medical evidence of record as follows:

Regarding the claimant's bilateral lower extremity edema, the record revealed no significant functional limitation due to this impairment (Exhibit 3F). The claimant was diagnosed with this impairment and treated without significant complications (Exhibit 3F/5). In addition, the undersigned has found evidence in the record that this condition may have ...

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