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Hadi v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

March 26, 2018

JEMILA HADI, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO GRANT PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE ADMINISTRATIVE RECORD (DE 21) and REMAND THIS MATTER TO THE COMMISSIONER

          ANTHONY P. PATTI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Chief Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr. Magistrate Judge Anthony P. Patti

         I. RECOMMENDATION: For the reasons that follow, it is RECOMMENDED that the Court GRANT Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the administrative record (DE 21) and REMAND this matter to the Commissioner of Social Security for re-evaluation of the opinion evidence and the RFC, consistent with this report and recommendation.

         II. REPORT

         Plaintiff, Jemila Hadi, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c) for review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying her application for disability insurance (DI) benefits. This matter is before the United States Magistrate Judge for a Report and Recommendation on Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the administrative record (DE 21), the Commissioner's response (DE 22), Plaintiff's reply (DE 29), and the administrative record (DE 11).[1]

         A. Background and Administrative History

         Plaintiff alleges her disability began on April 4, 2008, at the age of 46. (R. at 158-159.) She lists several physical conditions (knees, neck, shoulder, ear and back problems, as well as diabetes) that limit her ability to work. (R. at 170.) Her application for DI was denied in June 2013. (R. at 70-81, 105-108.) Her request for reconsideration was denied in March 2014. (R. at 82-104, 111-115.)

         Plaintiff requested a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). ALJ Elizabeth P. Neuhoff held a hearing, and, on September 1, 2015, determined that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (R. at 7-69, 289-326.) On October 6, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (R. at 1-6.) Thus, ALJ Neuhoff's decision became the Commissioner's final decision.

         Plaintiff timely commenced the instant action on November 21, 2016.

         B. Plaintiff's Medical History

         The administrative record contains approximately 1, 544 pages of medical records, of which Exhibits 1F through 44F were available to the ALJ at the time of the September 1, 2015 decision. (R. at 24, 327-1870.) These records will be discussed in detail, as necessary, below.

         C. Hearing Testimony

         Plaintiff testified at the July 16, 2015 hearing, when she was 54 years old. (R. at 39-59, 158.) As Plaintiff is expressly challenging the ALJ's credibility assessment in the instant appeal, the Court will refer to Plaintiff's testimony as necessary below. Vocational expert (VE) Rebecca Williams testified at the hearing, providing answers to several hypotheticals. (R. at 59-68, 241-246.)

         D. The Administrative Decision

         On September 1, 2015, ALJ Neuhoff issued a decision. (R. at 7-24.) At Step 1 of the sequential evaluation process, [2] the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the period from her alleged amended onset date of August 1, 2011 through her date last insured (DLI) of December 31, 2013. (R. at 12.) At Step 2, the ALJ found that, through the DLI, Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: thyroid disorder status post total thyroidectomy in 2014, back disorder, and bilateral knee degenerative joint disease status post right arthropathy in 2007. (R. at 12-14.) She also noted the Plaintiff's claims of diabetes mellitus, goiter, hearing loss, obesity and migraines, and did not find these to be severe. (R. at 14.) At Step 3, the ALJ found that, through the DLI, Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments. (R. at 14-15.) Between Steps 3 and 4 of the sequential process, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”)[3] and determined that, through the DLI, Plaintiff had the RFC:

. . . to perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) except can lift and carry 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently; sit, stand and walk for a total of six hours each of an eight-hour work day; cannot push/pull pounds more than ten with her right upper extremity; can occasionally push/pull with her left upper extremity [i.e. exertional limitations]; can occasionally climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds and crawl; can frequently climb stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch [i.e. postural limitations]; cannot perform work that requires bilateral hearing such as phone work; and cannot perform work requiring reading and writing as part of regular job duties (such as completing forms or other paperwork) on a regular basis secondary to language barrier [i.e. communicative limitations].

(R. at 15-18.) At Step 4, the ALJ determined that, through the DLI, Plaintiff was capable of performing past relevant work (PRW) as an appliance assembler and production assembler, as this work did not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by her RFC. (R. at 18.) The ALJ therefore concluded that Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, at ...


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