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Ward v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga

March 30, 2018

PHILLIP DANNY WARD Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CHRISTOPHER H. STEGER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         This action was instituted pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying Phillip Danny Ward's ("Plaintiff") claim for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") as provided by the Social Security Act. The parties have consented to entry of final judgment by the United States Magistrate Judge under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) with any appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [Doc. 9].

         For the reasons stated herein, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 11] shall be GRANTED in part; the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 12] shall be DENIED; the decision of the Commissioner shall be REVERSED; and this action shall be REMANDED under Sentence Four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for further consideration of the opinion of Rickey Hutcheson D.O. pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527. Judgment in favor of Plaintiff shall be entered.

         II. Background

         A. Procedural History

         On August 15, 2013, Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (Act), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434 [Tr. 11, 138-41]. The agency denied Plaintiff's claim initially and on reconsideration [Tr. 96-98, 101-02]. On September 24, 2015, following a hearing, an ALJ found that Plaintiff was not under a "disability" as defined in the Act [Tr. 8-25, 26-72]. On September 12, 2016, SSA's Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review [Tr. 1-6]. Thus, Plaintiff has exhausted her administrative remedies, and the ALJ's decision stands as the final decision of the Commissioner subject to judicial review.

         B. The ALJ's Findings

         After considering the entire record, the ALJ made the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2018.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 30, 2013, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairment: degenerative disc disease (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 and 404.1526).
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), meaning that the claimant is capable of lifting or carrying up to 10 pounds frequently, lifting or carrying 20 pounds occasionally, sitting for 6 hours out of an 8-hour day, and standing or walking for 6 hours out of an 8-hour day. The claimant can occasionally climb ramps and stairs; he can occasionally climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; and he can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl. The claimant can occasionally have interaction with the public. The claimant can have infrequent changes in the work setting, he can remember and perform 1 to 4 step detailed tasks, and he is unable to make decisions on an executive level.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565).
7. The claimant was born on August 29, 1964 and was 48 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date. The claimant subsequently changed age category to closely approaching advanced age (20 CFR 404.1563).
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564).
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 ...

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