United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Columbia Division
Judge Crenshaw Magistrate Judge Newbern
Honorable Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr., Chief Judge
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
before the Court in this Social Security appeal is Plaintiff
Robin Annette Brooks's motion for judgment on the
administrative record (Doc. No. 18), to which the
Commissioner of Social Security has responded (Doc. No. 20).
Upon consideration of these filings and the transcript of the
administrative record (Doc. No. 14),  and for the reasons given
below, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that Brooks's motion
for judgment be GRANTED, that the decision of the
Commissioner be REVERSED, and that the cause REMANDED for
further administrative proceedings consistent with this
filed applications for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the
Social Security Act on February 20, 2013, alleging disability
based on bulging discs and arthritis in her back,
degenerative disc disease, and high blood pressure. (Tr. 28,
111-12, 226.) Tennessee Disability Determination Services
(DDS) denied Brooks's claims upon initial review and
again following her request for reconsideration. Brooks
requested de novo review of her case by an Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ). The ALJ heard the case on March 4, 2015, and
Brooks appeared with counsel and gave testimony. (Tr. 45-82.)
A vocational expert (VE) also testified at the hearing. At
the conclusion of the hearing, the ALJ took the matter under
advisement until May 12, 2015, when he issued a written
decision finding Brooks not disabled. (Tr. 28-37.) That
decision contains the following enumerated findings:
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 November 6, 2012, the amended alleged onset
date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
obesity, lumbosacral spondylosis with myelopathy,
osteoarthritis of the right knee, and arthritic changes of
the left knee (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(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,
416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), except with no climbing
ladders/ropes/scaffolds; occasional climbing ramps/stairs,
balancing, stooping, crouching, kneeling or crawling; no
walking on uneven surfaces; and limited to standing/walking 4
hours in an 8-hour workday.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on January 30, 1962 and was 42 years
old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on
the [original] alleged disability onset date. The claimant
subsequently changed age category to closely approaching
advanced age (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).
8. The claimant has a limited education and is able to
communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).
9. 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).
10. 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 404.1569, 404.1569(a),
416.969, and 416.969(a)).
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from March 31, 2004, through the
date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).
(Tr. 30, 32, 35-37.)
5, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Brooks's request for
review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-3), rendering that
decision final. This action seeking review was timely filed
on May 5, 2016. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Review of the Record
following review is taken from Brooks's Memorandum (Doc.
No. 19) in support of her Motion for Judgment on the
On the amended alleged onset date, Plaintiff was 50 years
old. (Tr. 28, 203.) She has an eighth grade education. (Tr.
227.) She has past work as a caregiver, harness builder, and
laborer. (Tr. 228.)
Concise Summary of the Medical Records
On the alleged onset date of November 6, 2012, Plaintiff
underwent MRI of the lumbar spine ordered by her longtime
pain management doctor Damon Dozier, M.D. (he had been
treating her since at least January 4, 2012 on at least six
occasions - Tr. 321, 324, 327, 329, 334, 336). (Tr. 362.) At
¶ 1-L2 there was moderate disc space narrowing; and at
¶ 5-S1 there was severe disc space narrowing, mild
broad-based posterior disc bulge, and moderate bilateral
facet arthropathy. (Tr. 362.) The overall impression was
multilevel spondylosis [without spinal or foraminal stenosis,
no change when compared to a previous MRI dated July 20,
2009]. (Tr. 362.)
Between November 2012 and April of 2013, Plaintiff treated
with Dr. Dozier on four occasions for pain management related
to her lower back pain that radiated into her hips. (Tr.
311-21, 437-40.) During these visits it was noted
Plaintiff's problems included depressive disorder, pain
in her lower leg, lumbosacral spondylosis without myelopathy,
degeneration of thoracic or lumbar intervertebral disc,
cervicalgia, pain in her thoracic spine, and lumbago. (Tr.
312.) Examinations by Dr. Dozier showed tenderness over the
spinous process from . . . L1-L5, decreased extension, a
depressed mood, decreased range of motion, limited
ambulation, mildly increased pain with facet-loading, and
tenderness of the SI joints. (Tr. 313, 317, 320, 439.) During
this period, Plaintiff was diagnosed with degeneration of the
thoracic or lumbar intervertebral disc; lumbago; depressive
disorder; pain in the thoracic spine; lumbosacral spondylosis
without myelopathy; and cervicalgia. (Tr. 314, 317, 321.)
Injections were planned, and she was prescribed Ibuprofen,
Cymbalta, Lortab, Venlafaxine, methocarbamol, and Neurontin.
(Tr. 314-15, 317-18, 320-21.) In April 2013, Dr. Dozier
performed a radiofrequency ablation of the lumbar medial
branch and dorsal ramus of L5. (Tr. 393, 439.)
On May 8, 2013, Plaintiff presented to Donita Keown, M.D.,
per the referral of the Tennessee Disability Determination
Services for a consultative physical examination. (Tr. 372.)
Here, Plaintiff reported a long history of chronic stiffness
and pain in the lower back; and she reported epidural
steroids and radiofrequency ablation had not improved her
condition. (Tr. 372.) She also reported radiating discomfort
into the bilateral buttocks and lateral thighs. (Tr. 372.)
Examination revealed Plaintiff was 64 inches tall and weighed
284 pounds. (Tr. 372-73.) Dr. Keown diagnosed chronic low
back pain with degenerative disc disease and facet
arthropathy[;] bilateral knee pain, likely attributable to
degenerative joint disease; morbid obesity, not limiting