United States District Court, Southern District of Georgia, Augusta Division
For Carol Sue Arocho, Plaintiff: Stephen H. Hagler, LEAD ATTORNEY, Stephen H. Hagler, LLC, Martinez, GA.
For Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant: Shannon Heath Statkus, U.S. Attorney's Office - AUG, Augusta, GA.
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
BRIAN K. EPPS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Carol Sue Arocho appeals the decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (the " Commissioner") denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (" DIB") under the Social Security Act. Upon consideration of the briefs, the record evidence, and the relevant statutory and case law, the Court REPORTS and RECOMMENDS pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), that the Commissioner's final decision be REVERSED and that the case be REMANDED to the Commissioner for further consideration in accordance with this opinion.
Plaintiff protectively applied for DIB on January 29, 2010, alleging a disability onset date of June 19, 2009. Tr. (" R."), pp. 96, 188. The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's application initially and on reconsideration. R. 98-101, 103-05. Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (" ALP"), R. 106, and the ALJ held a hearing on December 1, 2011. R. 39-95. At the hearing, the ALJ heard testimony from Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, and from William M. Jenkins, a Vocational Expert (" VE"). Id. On February 17, 2012, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. R. 20-38.
Applying the sequential process required by 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520, the ALJ found:
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 19, 2009, the alleged onset date (20 C.F.R. § 404.1571 et seq .).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: allergies, asthma, chronic cough, and irritable bowel syndrome. (20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(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 and 404.1526).
4. The claimant has the residual functional capacity (" RFC") to perform medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(c) except she can only have occasional exposure to respiratory irritants (fumes, gases, chemicals, etc.). In light of this RFC, the claimant is capable of performing past relevant work as a lead supervisor, retail sales clerk, and cashier. She also has transferable skills from past relevant work, as identified by the VE, that would allow her to perform the jobs of registration clerk, circulation clerk, and calendar control clerk.
Because the ALJ determined that Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work, the sequential evaluation process stopped, and the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from June 19, 2009, through February 17, 2012 (the date of the decision). R. 33. When the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, R. 1-6, 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 the adverse decision. Plaintiff argues that the Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial evidence because (1) the ALJ did not properly assess Plaintiff's credibility and improperly engaged in " sit and squirm jurisprudence" regarding Plaintiff's cough; (2) the ALJ failed to find Plaintiff's headaches were a severe impairment that impacted her ability to work; (3) the ALJ failed to give proper weight to the opinion of two treating physicians; and (4) the ALJ failed to properly consider the impact of ...