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Hughes v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

July 14, 2014

ERNESTINE GILMORE HUGHES, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Comissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM S. DUFFRY, Jr., District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Magistrate Judge Gerrilyn G. Brill's Final Report and Recommendation ("R&R") [15]. The Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court affirm the Commissioner's denial of Plaintiff Ernestine Gilmore Hughes's ("Plaintiff") application for disability insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI").

I. BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed applications for disability insurance benefits and SSI in January 2007. (Tr. at 249-57 [7]). On September 14, 2011, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") held an administrative hearing, and issued a decision on November 22, 2011, denying Plaintiff's applications. (Id. at 11-27) Plaintiff requested review by the Appeals Council, which denied her request in May 2013. (Id. at 1-6).[1]

On July 9, 2013, Plaintiff filed this action, seeking review, under 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g), of the Social Security Commissioner's denial of Plaintiff's applications. Plaintiff seeks for the Court to grant her motion for judgment on the pleadings, that the Commissioner's decision be vacated, and that this matter be remanded with the direction that Plaintiff be found disabled, or for further administrative proceedings. Relief is required, Plaintiff claims, because the ALJ's determination was erroneous on the grounds that: 1) the ALJ's finding of Plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC") did not completely and accurately account for Plaintiff's mental limitations; 2) the ALJ's assessment of Plaintiff's credibility was unsupported by substantial evidence; and 3) the vocational expert's testimony did not provide substantial evidence to support the denial of benefits. (Pl.'s Brief at 9-15 [13]).

On June 2, 2014, the Magistrate Judge issued her R&R, finding that: 1) the ALJ sufficiently accounted for Plaintiff's mental limitations in the RFC finding; 2) the ALJ made a proper credibility finding as to Plaintiff's testimony; and 3) the vocational expert's testimony provided substantial evidence to support the ALJ's finding that Plaintiff could perform other work. No objections to the R&R were filed.

B. Facts

At the time of the administrative hearing, September 14, 2011, Plaintiff was 58 years old. Plaintiff asserted an alleged onset date of disability of March 22, 2005 through February 8, 2008.[2] Plaintiff has an eleventh grade education and previously worked as a housekeeper.

Dr. Will Whissell treated Plaintiff from 2004 until 2008. In 2005, Dr. Whissell completed a Medical Assessment of Ability to do Work Related Activities (Mental). (Tr. at 795-97). In this form, Dr. Whissell indicated that Plaintiff had a "fair ability" to perform most activities, except that Plaintiff had "no useful ability" to handle work stress and or to perform complex job tasks. (Id. at 796). Dr. Whissell did not explain the basis for his assessment of Plaintiff.

Dr. Ellison M. Cale performed a consultative psychological evaluation of Plaintiff in August 2007. (Id. at 526-30). Dr. Cale concluded that Plaintiff's physical limitations and depressive symptoms would overwhelm her and would cause her to rely on others for daily activities. (Id.). Dr. Cale also opined that Plaintiff's depression caused her to be "verbally abusive towards her loved ones, " and that she exhibited variable concentration issues, but could respond to short questions. (Id. at 529).

The ALJ found Plaintiff's testimony to be credible, but inconsistent with a finding of disability. (Id. at 21). The ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have a listed impairment or combination of impairments during the relevant period, [3] and had the RFC to perform light work, subject to certain limitations, including that such work be simple, low stress, and with only occasional interactions with other employees, supervisors, and the public. (Id. at 18). The ALJ relied on the testimony of a vocational expert, who testified that a person with Plaintiff's RFC could find other work existing in large numbers in the national economy, to conclude that Plaintiff was not under a disability during the relevant period. (Id. at 25-27, 54-56).

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal ...


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