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Boles v. Saul

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

November 12, 2019

ANDREW M. SAUL Commissioner of Social Security[1]

          The Honorable Waverly D. Crenshaw, Chief District Judge.



         Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) to obtain judicial review of the final decision of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner” or “Defendant”) denying Plaintiff's claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) as provided under Titles II and XVI, respectively, of the Social Security Act (“the Act”). The case is currently pending on Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the administrative record (see Docket Entry (“DE”) 23), to which Defendant has filed a response. See DE 28. This matter has been referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) for initial consideration and a Report and Recommendation. See DE 4.

         Upon review of the administrative record as a whole and consideration of the parties' filings, the undersigned Magistrate Judge respectfully recommends that Plaintiff's motion (DE 23) be DENIED.


         Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI on August 16, 2011. See Transcript of the Administrative Record (DE 17, 21-1) at 103-04.1F[2] He alleged a disability onset date of August 16, 2011 and asserted that he was unable to work because of problems with his heart, back, right hand, and anxiety. AR 103-04, 120. Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. AR 103-06. Pursuant to his request for a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified at a hearing before ALJ Joan Lawrence on September 17, 2013. AR 85. The ALJ denied the claim on February 7, 2014. AR 64-66. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision on April 17, 2015 (AR 53-55), thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.

         On May 22, 2015, Plaintiff filed suit in this district court seeking judicial review of the ALJ's denial pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 405(g). See DE 1. On September 11, 2015, the District Judge enter an order vacating the ALJ's decision and remanding Plaintiff's claim pursuant to sentence six of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for a de novo administrative hearing, which resulted in the district court retaining jurisdiction until the post-remand proceedings were completed. See DE 15.2F[3] On August 15, 2018, the Commissioner filed the administrative record, which indicated that Plaintiff's claim was again denied following remand. AR 1-3.3F[4] On February 15, 2019, Plaintiff filed the instant motion for judgment on the administrative record. See DE 23.


         The ALJ's second unfavorable decision on April 28, 2017, included the following enumerated findings based upon the record:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2015.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 16, 2011, the 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 of the spine; coronary artery disease; sleep apnea; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in a setting of ongoing tobacco abuse against medical advice; a depressive disorder; and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (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, 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 that he is precluded from any climbing of ladders; limited to occasional balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling, and climbing stairs; should avoid humidity, temperature extremes, hazards, and pulmonary irritants such as dust, fumes, etc. due to COPD; and can deal with change and people 1/3 of the time.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on September 16, 1972 and was 38 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 a limited 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 August 16, 2011, through the date of this decision ...

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