United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
ORDER AND OPINION ON AN APPEAL FROM A SOCIAL SECURITY
DISABILITY ACTION 
T. WALKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
filed an application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits (together “disability
benefits”), alleging she became disabled in July 2012.
Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) to obtain judicial review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“the Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff's
August 13, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for a
disability benefits, alleging disability beginning on July
27, 2012, due to herniated disks of the cervical and lumbar
spine with radiculopathy and stenosis, causing pain in her
neck and right arm; degenerative disc disease and lumbar
spondylolisthesis; kidney stones; and gall bladder problems.
(Transcript (“Tr.”) 20, 60, 139-40, 168). After
Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon
reconsideration (Tr. 69-78, 88), on October 24, 2013,
Plaintiff appealed the denial to an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) (Tr. 89), who held a hearing on November
13, 2014 (Tr. 32-59), and ultimately denied Plaintiff's
claims on December 9, 2014, finding Plaintiff was not
disabled (Tr. 15-31). Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's
decision to the Appeals Council in early 2015 (Tr. 5-14),
which denied Plaintiff's request for review on February
2, 2016 (Tr. 1-4). Plaintiff then appealed the decision to
this Court on April 6, 2016. (Doc. 1). This case is now
before the undersigned upon the administrative record and the
parties' pleadings and briefs, and is ripe for review
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
reasons set forth below, the decision of the Commissioner is
hereby REVERSED AND REMANDED to the
Commissioner pursuant to sentence four for further
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
STANDARD FOR DETERMINING DISABILITY
individual is considered to be disabled for purposes of
disability benefits if he or she is “unable to engage
in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any
medically determinable physical or mental impairment which
can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can
be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A); see
also 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The impairment or
impairments must result from anatomical, psychological, or
physiological abnormalities that are demonstrable by
medically accepted clinical or laboratory diagnostic
techniques and must be of such severity that the claimant is
not only unable to do his or her previous work but cannot,
considering age, education, and work experience, engage in
any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in
the national economy. 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B)-(G);
see also 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)-(3).
burden of proof in a social security disability case is
divided between the claimant and the Commissioner. The
claimant bears the initial burden of establishing the
existence of a “disability” by demonstrating that
he or she is unable to perform his or her former type of
work. Once the claimant has met this burden, the burden
shifts to the Commissioner to show that, considering the
claimant's age, education, work experience, and
impairment, there are some other types of jobs that exist in
the national economy that the claimant can perform. The
overall burden, however, rests upon the claimant to prove
that he or she is unable to engage in any substantial gainful
activity that exists in the national economy. Doughty v.
Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 n.2 (11th Cir. 2001).
summarized below, a five-step sequential analysis must be
used when evaluating a disability claim.
(1) The Commissioner must determine whether the applicant is
currently working; if so, the claim is denied.
(2) The Commissioner must determine whether the claimed
impairment is severe; that is, whether the impairment or
combination of impairments significantly limits the
individual's physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities; if not, the claim is denied.
(3) The Commissioner must determine whether the impairment
equals or exceeds in severity certain impairments described
in the impairment listings in the regulations; if it does,
the claimant is automatically entitled to disability
(4) The Commissioner must determine whether the applicant has
sufficient residual functional capacity to perform past work;
if so, the claim is denied.
(5) The Commissioner must determine, on the basis of
claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual
functional capacity, whether the applicant can perform any
other gainful and substantial work within the economy; if so,
the claim is denied.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520-404.1576.
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW OF THE
made the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:
(1) The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2017.
(2) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since July 27, 2012, the alleged onset date (20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1571, et seq.).
(3) The claimant has the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine (with
radiculopathy and stenonsis); degenerative disc disease of
the lumbar spine (with spondylolisthesis); and obesity (20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(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 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P,
app. 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404. 1520(d), 404.1525,
(5) The claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b)
except the claimant would be limited to frequent but not
constant reaching in all directions bilaterally; would
require a sit/stand adjustment option but would not be off
task; the claimant would be limited in occupations in which
she could sit and stand or ...