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Roberts v. Social Security Administration

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

June 3, 2019

JOHN ROBERTS, Plaintiff,
v.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          CAMPBELL / FRENSLEY, JUDGE

         This is a civil action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to obtain judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), as provided under Title II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”). The case is currently pending on Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record. Docket No. 22. Plaintiff has filed an accompanying Memorandum. Docket No. 23. Defendant has filed a Response, arguing that the decision of the Commissioner was supported by substantial evidence and should be affirmed. Docket No. 24. Plaintiff has filed a Reply. Docket No. 25.

         For the reasons stated below, the undersigned recommends that this action be REMANDED.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff filed his application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) on August 27, 2014[1], alleging that he had been disabled since September 18, 2006, due to a right knee injury at work and use of cane, “osteomyelitis in right knee, ” bipolar disorder, left heel pain, “9 knee surgeries- still in pain, ” “left knee pain- weight shifted had left knee surgery, “[r]ight knee pain, ” “[b]ack pain- due to nerve pain from right knee, ” and “[p]ain was so bad - went to Dr. to check out.” See, e.g., Docket No. 16, Attachment (“TR”), pp. 177-83, 198. Plaintiff's application was denied both initially (TR 96) and upon reconsideration (TR 109). Plaintiff subsequently requested (TR 129) and received (TR 47-80) a hearing. Plaintiff's hearing was conducted on September 22, 2016, by Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Alfred M. Smith. TR 47. Plaintiff and vocational expert (“VE”), Silvio Reyes, Ph.D., appeared and testified. Id.

         On February 8, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision unfavorable to Plaintiff, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act and Regulations. TR 28-46. Specifically, the ALJ made the following findings of fact:

1. The claimant last met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act on December 31, 2011.
2. The claimant did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the period from his alleged onset date of September 18, 2006 through his date of last insured of December 31, 2011 (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq.).
3. Through the date last insured, the claimant had the following severe impairment: disorder of the knee with residuals from multiple knee surgeries (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
4. Through the date last insured, the claimant may have had an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled 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, through the date last insured, the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except that he could lift and/or carry 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently; stand and/or walk two hours total in an eight-hour workday; sit six hours total in an eight-hour workday; never kneel, crouch or crawl; occasionally climb ramps/stairs; and required a cane to ambulate.
6. Through the date last insured, the claimant was unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565).
7. The claimant was 37 years old on the date last insured, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44 (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 SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. Through the dated last insured, considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant could have performed (20 CFR 404.1569 and 404.1569(a)).
11. The claimant was not under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, at any time from September 2006, the alleged onset date, through December 31, 2011, the date last insured (20 CFR 404.1520(g)).

TR 33-41.

         On March 24, 2017, Plaintiff timely filed a request for review of the hearing decision. TR 175. On May 17, 2018, the Appeals Council issued a letter declining to review the case (TR 1-4), thereby rendering the decision of the ALJ the final decision of the Commissioner. This civil action was thereafter timely filed, and the Court has jurisdiction. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). If the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence, based upon the record as a whole, then these findings are conclusive. Id.

         II. ...


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