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Howton Angel v. Saul

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

September 26, 2019

ERIN AMANDA HOWTON ANGEL, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          Crenshaw Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JEFFERY S. FRENSLEY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE 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. 15. Plaintiff has filed an accompanying Memorandum. Docket No. 16. Defendant has filed a Response, arguing that the decision of the Commissioner was supported by substantial evidence and should be affirmed. Docket No. 20.

         For the reasons stated below, the undersigned recommends that Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record be DENIED, and that the decision of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff was found disabled as of December 28, 2005, in a decision dated February 22, 2008. See, e.g., Docket No. 11, Attachment (“TR”) pp. 110-18. At the time of the hearing the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that Plaintiff had the following medically determinable impairments: bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, left shoulder impairment and migraine headaches. TR 116. The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform a limited range of sedentary work and could not tolerate stress or work eight hours in a day due to her psychological impairments. Id. The ALJ further found that Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work and that there were no jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. TR 117. Plaintiff was subsequently awarded benefits. TR 110-12.

         The SSA re-assessed Plaintiff's eligibility for Disability Insurance Benefits and determined to cease benefits . TR 121-27. Plaintiff subsequently requested a hearing before an ALJ. TR 182. Plaintiff's hearings were conducted on February 9, 2016, and May 24, 2016. TR 52-98. The ALJ issued a decision on July 15, 2016, and found that Plaintiff was no longer disabled as of October 31, 2012. TR 128-43. The ALJ found that as of October 31, 2012, Plaintiff had the following medically determinable impairments: bipolar disorder and obesity. TR 133. The ALJ further found that “as of October 31, 2012, the impairments presented at the time of the CPD [Comparison Point Decision] had decreased in medical severity to the point where the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform work at all exertional levels.” TR 135.

         Plaintiff timely filed a request for appeal to review the July 15, 2016 decision. TR 254-55. The Appeals Council remanded the case to an ALJ. TR 151-52. A new hearing was held on March 6, 2018, by Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Todd Spangler. TR 35-51. Plaintiff and vocational expert (“VE”), Rodney Caldwell, appeared and testified. TR 35-51.

         On April 13, 2018, 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 8-27. Specifically, the ALJ made the following findings of fact:

1. The most recent favorable medical decision finding that the claimant was disabled is the decision dated February 22, 2008. This is known as the “comparison point decision” or CPD.
2. At the time of the CPD, the claimant had the following medically determinable impairments: bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, left shoulder impairment and migraine headaches. These impairments were found to result in the residual functional capacity to perform a limited range of sedentary work. She cannot tolerate stress or work eight hours in a day due to her psychological impairments.
3. Through the date of this decision, the claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity (20 CFR 404.1594(f)(1)).
4. The medical evidence establishes that, since October 31, 2012, the claimant has had the following medically determinable impairments: bipolar disorder and obesity. These are the claimant's current impairments.
5. Since October 31, 2012, the claimant has not had an impairment or combination of impairments which met or medically equaled the severity of an impairment listed in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1525 and 404.1526).
6. Medical improvement occurred on October 31, 2012 (20 CFR 404.1594(b)(1)).
7. Since October 31, 2012, the impairments present at the time of the CPD decreased in medical severity to the point where the claimant has had the residual functional capacity to perform work at all exertional levels. The claimant can perform work that has no strict timeframes or quotas.
8. The claimant's medical improvement is related to the ability to work because it resulted in an increase in the claimant's residual functional capacity (20 CFR 404.1594(c)(3)(ii)).
9. Since October 31, 2012, the claimant has continued to have a severe impairment or combination of impairments (20 CFR 404.1594(f)(6)).
10. Based on the impairments present since October 31, 2012, the claimant has had the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations. The claimant is limited to one, two and three step instructions. She can tolerate no more than occasional contact with coworkers, supervisors or the public; with changes introduced gradually and infrequently.
11. Since October 31, 2012, the claimant has been unable to perform past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565).
12. On October 31, 2012, the claimant was a younger individual age 18-49 (20 CFR 404.1563).
13. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564).
14. Since October 31, 2012, 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).
15. Since October 31, 2012, considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity based on the impairments present since October 31, 2012, the claimant has been able to perform a significant number of jobs in the national economy (20 CFR 404.1560(c) and 404.1566).
16. The undersigned has fully complied with the Remand Order of the Appeals Council issued on August 18, 2017, as set out in the Jurisdictional ...

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