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Reese v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Dublin Division

July 11, 2014

THEOPOLIS REESE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, [1] Defendant.

MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

BRIAN K. EPPS, Magistrate Judge.

Theopolis Reese ("Plaintiff") appeals the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner") denying his applications for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under the Social Security Act. Upon consideration of the briefs submitted by both parties, the record evidence, and the relevant statutory and case law, the Court REPORTS and RECOMMENDS that the Commissioner's final decision be AFFIRMED, that this civil action be CLOSED, and that a final judgment be ENTERED in favor of the Commissioner.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI on November 9, 2010, alleging a disability onset date of June 15, 2007. Tr. ("R"), pp. 146-58. The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's applications initially, R. 75-78, and on reconsideration R. 88-94. Plaintiff requested a hearing before the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), R. 96-98, and the ALJ held a hearing on January 31, 2013. R. 29-70. At the hearing, the ALJ heard testimony from Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, as well as from Randolph Salmons, a Vocational Expert ("VE"). Id . On February 15, 2013, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. R. 7-27.

Applying the five-step sequential process required by 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 and 416.920, the ALJ found:

1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 15, 2007, the alleged onset date (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1571 et seq. & 416.971 et seq. ).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: major depression; anxiety; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), moderate; spontaneous pneumothorax, status post-surgery; generalize degenerative joint disease; obesity; arthritis; and obstructive sleep apnea (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) & 416.920(c)).
3. 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 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
4. The claimant has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work[2] as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) with the ability to lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally, 10 pounds frequently; stand and/or walk up to 6 hours in an 8 hour workday; sit up to 6 hours in an 8 hour workday; perform frequent bilateral pushing and/or pulling with the upper and lower extremities; frequently climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl; occasionally climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; and perform frequent overhead reaching with the left upper extremity. The claimant must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme heat and cold; humidity; and environmental irritants. The claimant is limited to simple and routine tasks; simple addition and subtraction; and work in which instructions are communicated orally, rather than in writing. The claimant is limited to work in which reading comprehension is not an essential element of the position. The claimant also cannot perform work with fast-paced production or high quota demands or work requiring the preparation of written reports. Thus, the claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work. (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1565 and 416.965).
5. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and RFC, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform, including housekeeper, fast-food worker, and garage cashier. (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1569, 404.1569(a), 416.969, and 416.969(a).) Therefore, the claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from June 15, 2007, through February 15, 2013 (the date of the ALJ's decision) (20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).

R. 13-21.

When the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, R. 1-5, the Commissioner's decision became "final" for the purpose of judicial review. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff then filed this civil action requesting reversal or remand of that adverse decision. Plaintiff argues that the Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial evidence because (1) the ALJ erred in her utilization of the Medical Vocational Guidelines ("the Grids") in that she classified Plaintiff as a "younger person" rather than a "person closely approaching advanced age, " found Plaintiff was not illiterate, and failed to apply Rule 202.09 of the Grids to find Plaintiff disabled; and, (2) the ALJ failed to fully develop the record by refusing Plaintiff's request for a consultative examination with a psychologist. See doc. no. 17 ("Pl.'s Br."). The Commissioner maintains that the decision to deny Plaintiff benefits was supported by substantial evidence and should therefore be affirmed. See doc. no. 18 ("Comm'r's Br.")

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Judicial review of social security cases is narrow and limited to the following questions: (1) whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence, and (2) whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards. Lewis v. Callahan , 125 F.3d 1436, 1439 (11th Cir. 1997). When considering whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, the reviewing court may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute its judgment for the Commissioner's. Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005) ( per curiam ); Cornelius v. Sullivan , 936 F.2d 1143, 1145 (11th Cir. 1991). Notwithstanding this measure of deference, the Court remains obligated ...


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