United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Winchester
NANCY M. MEEKS, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
K. LEE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Nancy M. Meeks (“Plaintiff”) brought this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c) seeking
judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security (“Commissioner” or
“Defendant”) denying her disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”). Each party has moved for
judgment [Docs. 12 & 18] and filed supporting briefs
[Docs. 13 & 19]. This matter is now ripe. For the reasons
stated below, (1) Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the
pleadings will be GRANTED IN PART to the
extent it seeks remand to the Commissioner and DENIED
IN PART to the extent it seeks an award of benefits;
(2) the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment will
be DENIED; and (3) the decision of the
Commissioner shall be REVERSED and
REMANDED pursuant to sentence four of 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
filed her application for DIB in January 2016, alleging
disability as of December 1, 2012 (Transcript [Doc. 9]
(“Tr.”) 12, 65, 159-60). Plaintiff's claim
was denied initially and on reconsideration at the Social
Security Agency (“SSA”) level. After a hearing,
an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) found
Plaintiff was not under a disability as defined in the Social
Security Act (the “Act”) (Tr. 9-21). The Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner
(Tr. 1-5). Plaintiff timely filed the instant action [Doc.
Education and Employment Background
Plaintiff was born in June 1973, which made her a
“younger individual, ” on the alleged onset date
(Tr. 12, 20, 159). Plaintiff has a high school education, is
able to communicate in English, and has past relevant work as
a house cleaner (Tr. 20).
Disability Report, Plaintiff alleged disability due to the
following conditions: “[b]lind” and asthma
physical health issues and bipolar, depression, attention
deficit disorders, borderline multiple personality disorder,
and agoraphobia mental health issues (Tr. 169).
Plaintiff's medical records reveal multiple diagnoses
including bipolar disorder types I and II, complex
post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality
disorder traits, mood disorders, agoraphobia, and dysthymic
disorder (persistent depression) and extensive treatment for
same (e.g., Tr. 235, 257, 262, 435-36, 455, 461,
525). The parties and the ALJ recite many aspects of
Plaintiff's various medical records and issues. While all
relevant records have been considered, the Court will discuss
Plaintiff's medical history and records only to the
extent necessary to address the pertinent issues raised in
administrative hearing was held on April 18, 2017, and
Plaintiff, her ex-husband, and a vocational expert
(“VE”) testified (Tr. 26-64). The Court has
reviewed the testimony from the hearing. In short, Plaintiff
testified that her ex-husband made her get out of bed and
take showers because otherwise she did not keep up with her
hygiene, that she needed reminders to take her medicine and
sometimes to eat, and that she lacks the desire to do
anything but stay in her room (Tr. 31). Plaintiff said this
behavior had gone on for years but has gotten significantly
worse during the last two to three years (Tr. 31-32).
Plaintiff has passed out at grocery stores from panic attacks
and had three to four times panic attacks per day between
June 2014 and her hearing date; her most recent panic attack
was at a place of business a few days/weeks prior to the
hearing (Tr. 36-41). Plaintiff presented to an emergency room
two weeks before the hearing due to a severe panic attack at
her home that she mistook as a heart attack (Tr. 41-42).
claimed to experience auditory or visual hallucinations on a
daily basis from June of 2014 through the date of the hearing
(Tr. 43-44). Plaintiff testified she is accompanied by
someone when she goes out in public, she does not visit
anybody, she does not go to church, and she does not
participate in other social activities (Tr. 41, 44). Her
ex-husband often picks up her medications (Tr. 44). Being in
unfamiliar places negatively affects Plaintiff's anxiety
causing her to experience sweating, nervousness, difficulty
breathing, and crying spells (Tr. 45). She has kept her
curtains closed since she was “little” because
she feels like somebody is watching her (Tr. 46-47). She
believes her anxiety, paranoia, and depression prevent her
from leaving her home most days of the week (Tr. 50).
Plaintiff s ex-husband essentially confirmed Plaintiff's
testimony (Tr. 53-55).
pertinent, the VE testified that a hypothetical person who
would be absent from work three days a month could not
perform Plaintiff's past work or any other work (Tr.
ELIGIBILITY AND THE ALJ'S FINDINGS
Social Security Act defines a disability as the
‘inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or
which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than 12 months.'”
Schmiedebusch v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 536
Fed.Appx. 637, 646 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A)); see also Parks v. Soc. Sec. Admin.,
413 Fed.Appx. 856, 862 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(A)). A claimant is disabled “only if
his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such
severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work,
but cannot, considering his age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy.”
Parks, 413 Fed.Appx. at 862 (quoting 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(2)(A)). The SSA determines eligibility for
disability benefits by following a five-step process. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i-v). The five-step process
1) If the claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, the
claimant is not disabled.
2) If the claimant does not have a severe medically
determinable physical or mental impairment-i.e., an
impairment that significantly limits his or her physical or
mental ability to do basic work activities-the claimant is
3) If the claimant has a severe impairment(s) that meets or
equals one of the listings in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the
regulations and meets the duration requirement, the claimant
4) If the claimant's impairment does not prevent him or
her from doing his or her past relevant work, the ...