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Evans v. Saul

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

August 12, 2019

TAMMY LYNN EVANS, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL,[1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DEBRA C. POPLIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), Rule 73 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the consent of the parties [Doc. 14]. Now before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 17 & 18] and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 23 & 24]. Plaintiff subsequently filed a Reply [Doc. 25] to Defendant's motion.

         Tammy L. Evans (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“the ALJ”), the final decision of Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill (“the Commissioner”). For the reasons that follow, the Court will GRANT IN PART Plaintiff's motion and DENY the Commissioner's motion.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits on October 25, 2014 [Tr. 175], and subsequently protectively filed an application for supplemental security income benefits on January 20, 2015 [Tr. 178], pursuant to Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq. and 1381 et seq., claiming a period of disability that began on August 6, 2014. After her application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ. [Tr. 124]. A hearing was held on August 17, 2016. [Tr. 36-72]. On September 16, 2016, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. [Tr. 10-17]. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on October 11, 2017 [Tr. 1-6], making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Having exhausted her administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed a Complaint with this Court on November 6, 2017, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision under Section 405(g) of the Social Security Act. [Doc. 1]. The parties have filed competing dispositive motions, and this matter is now ripe for adjudication.

         II. ALJ FINDINGS

         The ALJ made the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2019.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 6, 2014, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq. and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: the residual effects of a left navicular fracture, left peroneal nerve neural lysis, left ankle lateral ligament reconstruction; lumbago, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression; bipolar disorder, and anxiety (20 CFR 404.1520(c). and 416.921(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, the undersigned finds 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 following limitations: occasional climbing ladders, ropes, and scaffolding; frequent climbing ramps and stairs; frequent balancing; occasional stooping; frequent kneeling, crouching, and crawling; work limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks; performed in a work environment free of fast-paced work; involving only simple work-related decisions; few, if any, workplace changes; and only occasional interaction with the public, coworkers, and supervisors.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on March 11, 1971 and was 43 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 and 404.1569(a)).
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from August 6, 2014, through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g)).

[Tr. 12-17].

         III. ...


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