United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
A. TRAUGER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Abe Hameed Jaari filed this action under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) seeking judicial review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA)
denying his application for disability insurance benefits
(DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI) under Titles II
and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
401-434, 1381-1383f. (ECF No. 1.) Now before the court is
Jaari's Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record
(ECF No. 17), to which the Commissioner has responded in
opposition (ECF No. 19). At issue is whether the finding of
the administrative law judge (ALJ) that Jaari was not
entitled to DIB or SSI is supported by substantial
evidence. (ECF No. 13 at Tr. 16-40.)
consideration of the parties' briefs, the transcript of
the administrative record, and for the reasons offered below,
Jaari's motion for judgment on the administrative record
will be denied and the decision of the SSA will be affirmed.
filed his DIB and SSI applications on August 4, 2014,
alleging disability onset as of May 24, 2013, which was one
day after the ALJ's decision denying other earlier DIB
and SSI applications Jaari had filed. Jaari claimed
disability based on “mental, back, neck, knees, arms,
diabetes, high blood pressure, and hernia.” (Tr.
96-97.) The disability onset date was later amended to July
31, 2014. (Tr. 16, 22, 48.) Jaari's claim to benefits was
denied at the initial and reconsideration stages of state
agency review. (Id.). Jaari requested de novo review
by an ALJ. (Id.) The ALJ heard the case on October
25, 2016, when Jaari appeared with counsel and gave
testimony. (Tr. 16, 50-68, 70-72, 75.) Testimony was also
received from Charles E. Wheeler, a vocational expert (VE).
(Tr. 16, 68-70, 72-74, 75-76.) At the conclusion of the
hearing, the matter was taken under advisement until May 11,
2017, when the ALJ issued a written decision finding that
Jaari was not disabled. (Tr. 16-40.)
decision contains the following enumerated findings:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2014.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since July 31, 2014, the amended alleged onset date
(20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, diabetes mellitus,
diffuse hepatic steatosis, and carpal tunnel syndrome (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 that he can occasionally lift and carry up
to 20 pounds and frequently lift and carry no more than up to
10 pounds; stand and/or walk for a total of about four hours
in an eight-hour workday; sit for about a total of four hours
in an eight-hour workday; would need to alternate between
sitting, standing and walking about every 30 minutes; can
occasionally stoop and crouch; can frequently balance; can
frequently climb stairs and ladders; can frequently kneel and
crawl; can push and pull no more than occasionally with the
bilateral upper extremities with the same weight limits given
for lifting and carrying; can frequently engage in reaching
in all directions including overhead; otherwise has no
manipulative limitations except that he can no more than
frequently perform bilateral handling and feeling; has no
environmental limitations and no mental functional
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on June 30, 1965 and was 49 years
old at the amended alleged disability onset date, which is
defined as a younger individual age 18-49. The claimant
became 50 years old on June 30, 2015, which is defined as
closely approaching advanced age (20 CFR 404.1563 and
8. The claimant has a high school education with one year of
college and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR
404.1564 and 416.964).
9. Transferability of job skills is not an issue in this case
because the claimant's past relevant work is unskilled
(20 CFR 404.1568 and 416.968).
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 July 31, 2014, through the
date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).
(Tr. 19-21, 33-35.)
February 1, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Jaari's
request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-5),
thereby rendering that decision the final decision of the
SSA. This civil action was timely filed, and the court has
jurisdiction. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Prior Claim and Finding
filing the applications that are the subject of the instant
litigation, Jaari filed applications for DIB and SSI on
August 19, 2010. In both previous applications, Jaari alleged
a disability onset date of June 1, 2008. Both applications
were denied at the initial and reconsideration stages of
state agency review. An ALJ heard the case on April 5, 2013.
Jaari appeared and testified at the hearing, as did John W.
McKinney III, a vocational expert. At the conclusion of the
hearing, the matter was taken under advisement until May 23,
2013, when the prior ALJ issued a written decision finding
Jaari not disabled. (Tr. 83-95.)
written decision, the prior ALJ stated:
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) with occasional lifting/carrying of up to 20
pounds and frequent lifting/carrying of up to 10 pounds,
occasional postural activities, standing a total of 4 hours
during an 8- hour workday for 1 hour at a time, walking a
total of 4 hours during an 8-hour workday for 30 minutes at a
time, sitting for 6 hours during an 8hour workday for 1 hour
at a time, operate foot controls and reach overhead
frequently, frequently reach, handle, and finger objects, no
working at unprotected heights or in extreme temperatures,
occasional exposure to moving parts and vehicles, and no
walking on uneven surfaces.
Review of the Record
reviewing Jaari's medical records, the ALJ briefly set
forth the limits of his review, as follows:
“Absent evidence of an improvement in the
claimant's condition, a subsequent Administrative Law
Judge is bound by the findings of a previous Administrative
Law Judge.” Drummond v. Commissioner, 126 F.3d
837, 842 (6th Cir. 1997); see also Social Security
Acquiescence Ruling 98-4(6) Dennard v. Secretary of
Health and Human Services, 907 F.2d 598 (6th Cir. 1990),
which imposes similar requirements. Having reviewed the
evidence in this claim, I conclude that new and material
evidence is not present to suggest any significant change has
occurred in the claimant's overall condition. That
stated, I do find that the actual residual functional
capacity findings for light work require some change.
Important to note, the claimant testified that he remembers
his prior hearing and stated that nothing has changed since
then, but the medications have changed.
summarized Jaari's medical records as follows:
Review of the evidence established that the prior
Administrative Law Judge found degenerative disc disease,
osteoarthritis, diabetes mellitus, steatohepatitis,
post-hernia repair to be severe impairments; and depression
to be non-severe. Regarding diagnostic testing, lumbar x-rays
showed only “mild” early spondylitic change with
no nerve root compression. Electromyogram (EMG) study showed
cervical radiculopathy. Regarding hernias, he did require
repair of recurrent umbilical and ventral hernias. However,
his physician simply indicated that claimant could avoid
heavy lifting. Regarding mental problems, he had reportedly
experienced depression, saw ghosts and heard voices. He also
testified that he could speak English well and could read and
write English some. However, he also traveled back and forth
to the Middle East repeatedly. For example, he traveled to
the Middle East in 2008 and had hernia surgery there. In
September 2010, he reported he was going to Saudi Arabia and
went abroad for three months, returning in February 2011. In
September 2011, he said he would be traveling outside the
United States in two weeks and would be away for one to three
months. In February 2012, he indicated that he was going to
Iraq. In March 2013, he indicated that he had been overseas
for a while and had not taken his medication for two months.
Nevertheless, his treating physician, Dr. Attoussi made
conclusory statements in February 2011 and August 2012,
stating claimant would be unable to work for the following
six months due to his health conditions. By reference, Ex.
Review of evidence during the applicable timeframe revealed
that little had changed in the claimant's overall medical
The claimant continued to receive primary care from Said
Attoussi, M.D. He also returned for refills of medication on
January 17, 2014, stating that he also needed a new
glucometer, “reports left other one overseas.”
Ex. B3F, p. 87. Further, as discussed below, he again
traveled to Iraq and spent approximately five months there in
It should be noted that throughout treatment with Dr.
Attoussi, impression typically included uncontrolled
diabetes. However, no actual blood glucose levels could be
found in Dr. Attoussi's these [sic] records.
Additionally, the claimant continued [to] deny endocrine
symptoms as discussed below.
On March 22, 2014, he returned for refills of medications and
had complaints of fatigue, which had been ongoing for three
months. However, review of systems was only positive for
chronic low back pain. He actually denied fatigue, joint
pain/swelling/stiffness, leg cramps and sciatica. His
surgical history included hernia repair in 2008 and 2010. He
was also described as pleasant and well-nourished. His blood
pressure was 133/76. Examination revealed clear lungs and
normal upper extremity joints. Regarding the lower extremity
joints, notes simply stated chronic back pain. Primary
impression was diabetes mellitus, type II and back pain.
Treatment included Omeprazole, Lantus solution and Lortab.
Ex. B3F, pp. 93-94.
On April 9, 2014, nerve conduction studies were performed for
claimant's complaints of ongoing back and neck pain,
associated with radiation into the bilateral upper
extremities and index and middle fingers, which had
reportedly been present for many years. There was
electrodiagnostic evidence of bilateral carpal [tunnel]
syndrome, at least moderate in intensity and slightly worse
in appearance on the left. However, there was no evidence of
any other focal neuropathy, plexopathy or active cervical
radiculitis from C5-Tl. Ex. B6F, pp. 1 and 3.
Regarding chronic low back pain, the claimant denied the
following on April 22, 2014: fall, direct trauma, radiation
of pain, tingling, numbness, even prior imaging (despite
lumbar x-rays discussed above), fatigue, polydipsia,
heat/cold intolerance and sleep disturbance. Examination was
essentially normal. Neurologically, sensory was
“normal;” motor strength was “normal”
bilaterally; coordination was “normal.” Reflexes
were two-plus. Babinski was negative. Gait was
“normal.” There was also no clubbing, cyanosis or
edema of the extremities. Regarding the abdomen, there was no
palpable mass, no hernia, no tenderness and no guarding.
Impression included non-insulin diabetes mellitus,
uncontrolled and back pain. Ex. B3F, pp. 96-97.
On June 7, 2014, the claimant reported that he had fallen at
home and hurt his back. Interestingly, he denied
cervical/neck pain and even carpal tunnel syndrome upon
review. His blood pressure was 135/76. Examination was
unchanged from that described in April 2014. Ex. B3F, pp.
Regardless, Dr. Attou[s]si provided a July 16, 2014 letter
stating claimant was unable to work for the next six months
due to his health conditions (Ex. B1F, p. 1). This was
essentially an exact duplicate of the ...