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Lokey v. Social Security Administration

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

June 7, 2018


          Honorable Aleta A. Trauger, District Judge



         Currently pending is Plaintiffs motion for judgment on the administrative record. See Docket Entry ("DE") 18.[2] Plaintiff brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) to obtain judicial review of the final decision of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"). At issue is whether the administrative law judge ("ALJ") erred in finding that Plaintiff was "not disabled" and therefore not entitled to Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") or Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). (See Administrative Transcript ("Tr.") at 8-10).[3] This matter has been referred to the undersigned, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), for initial consideration and a report and recommendation. See DE 2.

         Upon review of the administrative record and consideration of the parties' filings, I recommend that Plaintiffs motion for judgment on the administrative record (DE 18) be GRANTED, the decision of the Commissioner be REVERSED, and this matter be REMANDED for further administrative proceedings consistent with this Report.


         Plaintiff protectively filed an application for DIB and SSI on September 8, 2015 due to back problems and bipolar disorder, with an alleged onset date of August 1, 2014. (Tr. 44, 60-61). His application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 60-61, 94-95). Pursuant to his request for an administrative hearing, Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified at a hearing before ALJ John E. Case on November 2, 2016. (Tr. 26). On January 25, 2017, the ALJ denied the claim. (Tr. 8-10). On June 8, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request for a review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 1-3). Therefore, the ALJ's decision stands as the final determination of the Commissioner.

As part of the decision, the ALJ made 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 August 1, 2014, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 etseq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: lumbar spondylosis, peripheral neuropathy, chronic pain syndrome, and bipolar disorder (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, I find 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 the claimant could stand and/or walk no more than 4 hours in total. He could occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. The claimant could work in non-hazardous work environments. Additionally, the claimant would be limited to the performance of simple, non-complex tasks. He should not work with the public and could adjust to infrequent changes in the workplace.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on July 18, 1987 and was 27 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date. (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).
8. The claimant has at least a high school 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 August 1, 2014, through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).

(Tr. 13-20).

         On appeal, Plaintiff submits three assertions of erron(1) that the ALJ failed to sufficiently justify his decision to discount a treating physician's opinion; (2) that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate Plaintiffs credibility; and (3) that the residual functional capacity determination is not supported by substantial evidence. DE 16 at 9, 13, 18. Plaintiff therefore requests that this case be reversed and remanded pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for further consideration. Id. at 21.

         II. ...

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