United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Northeastern Division
GREGORY W. WITZ, Plaintiff,
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
Crenshaw, Chief Judge.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Brown, United States Magistrate Judge.
Honorable Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr., Chief United States
before the court is Plaintiff's motion for judgment on
the administrative record (Docket Entry No. 15), to which
Defendant Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) filed a response (Docket Entry
No. 17). Upon consideration of the parties' filings and
the transcript of the administrative record (Docket Entry No.
and for the reasons given herein, the Magistrate Judge
RECOMMENDS that Plaintiff's motion for
judgment be GRANTED and that the decision of
the Commissioner be REVERSED and REMANDED
for further administrative proceedings consistent with this
Report and Recommendation.
Gregory Witz, filed an application for Disability Insurance
Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II and an
application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security
Act on December 15, 2014 and July 28, 2015, respectively,
alleging disability onset as of April 2, 2013, due to spinal
injury/stenosis and arm/hand pain. (Tr. 15, 68, 78, 106).
Plaintiff's claims were denied at the initial level on
May 27, 2015, and on reconsideration on February 11, 2016.
(Tr. 15, 107, 115, 122). Plaintiff subsequently requested
de novo review of his case by an administrative law
judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 15, 129, 131). The ALJ heard
the case on March 14, 2017, when Plaintiff appeared with
counsel and gave testimony. (Tr. 15, 32-59). Testimony was
also received by a vocational expert. (Tr. 60-65). At the
conclusion of the hearing, the matter was taken under
advisement until September 15, 2017, when the ALJ issued a
written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 12-23).
That decision contains the following enumerated findings:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2017.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since April 2, 2013, the alleged onset date (20 CFR
404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairment:
degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, degenerative
disc disease of the lumbar spine, and osteoarthritis of the
bilateral shoulders (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). He is limited to sitting six hours in an
eight-hour workday, and standing and/or walking six hours in
an eight-hour workday, however, he is limited to no more than
30 minutes of continuous sitting, standing, or walking. He
can frequently handle, finger, and reach bilaterally. He can
occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and/or crawl.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on August 4, 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 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 April 2, 2013, through the
date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).
(Tr. 17, 18, 22, 23).
March 15, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-5),
thereby rendering that decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. This civil action was thereafter timely filed,
and the Court has jurisdiction. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g)
REVIEW OF THE RECORD
following summary of the medical record is taken from the
The claimant was injured on-the-job in April 2013. He injured
his neck and bilateral shoulder. (See Hearing Transcript).
X-rays of the claimant's cervical spine, dated April
2013, revealed severe spondylitic change at ¶ 3. (See
Exhibit lF). Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the
claimant's cervical spine, dated August 2013, revealed
marked spondylosis with multi-level disc space height
narrowing and degeneration. (See Exhibit lF). The claimant
received medication management, physical therapy,
chiropractic care, and epidural steroid injections in the
months following his initial injury. (See Exhibits l F, 2F,
and 4F). A follow-up MRI, dated October 2013, revealed the
same results. (See Exhibit 1F). He was given permanent
restrictions to light duty, up to 30 pounds, as of January
20, 2014. (See Exhibit lF).
As of September 2014, the claimant reported doing fine with
his medication regimen, consisting of hydrocodone, as he was
awaiting a referral to a pain management clinic. He was noted
to have weakness at ¶ 5 and C6, upon physical
examination. (See Exhibit 3F). The claimant was noted to have
a five percent whole body impairment and to be at maximum
medical improvement, as of September 3, 2014. (See Exhibit
In September 2014, the claimant began receiving pain
management for his cervical condition. Upon his initial
evaluation, he had tenderness at ¶ 8. He was treated
monthly until July 2015, and his condition was noted as
improved with pain level at a six on a scale of 10. He was
then referred for treatment on a bimonthly basis. (See
Exhibits 6F, 7F, and 9F). He also received some pain
management treatment from his primary care provider on an
overlapping basis. (See Exhibit 8F).
The claimant received more chiropractic care in 2015 and
2016. (See Exhibit 18F). An X-ray of the claimant's
lumbar spine, dated February 2016, revealed moderate to
marked spondylosis with multi-level disc space height
narrowing and low-grade lumbar facet arthropathy. (See
Exhibit 22F). X-ray of the claimant's cervical spine,
also dated February 2016, revealed marked spondylosis with
multi-level disc space height narrowing. (See Exhibit 22F).
X-rays of the claimant's left shoulder, also dated
February 2016, revealed arthritic changes in the AC joint and
the bony glenoid. (See Exhibit 22F). A[n] MRI of the