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Adams v. Colvin

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

May 14, 2015

SHAWN HEATH ADAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

BRIAN K. EPPS, Magistrate Judge.

Shawn Heath Adams ("Plaintiff") appeals the decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") 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, 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.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on March 23, 1972. Tr. ("R"), pp. 21, 44. He completed his GED, obtained specialized training in automotive technology, and was a licensed auto repair mechanic. R. 46-47. Plaintiff had past relevant work experience as an auto mechanic, boat mechanic, and transmission mechanic. R. 33, 48-53, 79-80, 166-172, 180-197. He applied for DIB on January 4, 2010, alleging a disability onset date of November 12, 2008. R 136-40. The Social Security Administration denied the application initially and on reconsideration. R. 89-92, 94-97. Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), R. 98-99, which was held on December 8, 2011. R. 39-85. At the hearing, the ALJ heard testimony from Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, and from William E. Stark, a Vocational Expert ("VE"). Id. On January 11, 2012, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. R. 21-34.

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

1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 12, 2008, the alleged onset date (20 C.F.R. § 404.1571 et seq. ).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, coronary artery disease, and status post stent placement (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, 404.1526).
4. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b)[1] except the claimant can never climb ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The claimant can frequently balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. The claimant can perform work, which allows him to sit or stand alternatively at will, if the claimant is not off task more than 10% of the work period. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 C.F.R. § 404.1565).
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 mail clerk and information clerk (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1569 and 404.1569(a)). The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from November 12, 2008, through January 11, 2012 (the date of the ALJ's decision) (20 CFR 404.1520(g)).

R. 26-34.

When the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on February 21, 2014, R. 1-4, 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 erroneous because the ALJ improperly (1) ignored opinions of physician Dr. Donald Johnson, II, (2) ignored opinions in treating physician Dr. Hemant Yagnick's 2011 medical source statement that Plaintiff would be off task twenty-five percent or more of the workday and would likely be absent more than four days per month, and (3) gave great weight to the opinions of state agency medical consultant Dr. John Hassinger. (See generally doc. no. 11 ("Pl.'s Br.").) The Commissioner never explicitly addresses Plaintiff's second enumeration of error, but maintains that the decision to deny Plaintiff's application is supported by substantial evidence and should therefore be affirmed. (See doc. no. 12 ("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, Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145 (11th Cir. 1991); and (2) whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards. Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986). 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. Cornelius, 936 F.2d at 1145. Notwithstanding this measure of deference, the Court remains obligated ...


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