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Jackson v. Berryhill

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

November 27, 2017

RODNEY F. JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          FINAL REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JOHN K. LARKINS III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Rodney F. Jackson, who is proceeding pro se, seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Defendant Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying his applications for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. Jackson contends that this case should be reversed and remanded because the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) failed to properly evaluate the effect that his depression has on his ability to manage his physical symptoms. Liberally construing his argument, he claims that this resulted in a flawed residual functional capacity (“RFC”) assessment. He also submits new medical records with his appeal. After careful consideration of the record and the briefs of the parties, I RECOMMEND that the decision of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On June 25, 2010, Jackson filed applications for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income, alleging a disability onset date of September 1, 2008. (Tr. 404-14.) The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. 187, 196, 203.) Jackson initially had a hearing before an ALJ on May 1, 2012. (Tr. 89-116.) The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision, but the Appeals Council remanded the case for further proceedings. (Tr. 163-77, 183-85.) On remand before a different ALJ, Jackson testified at a hearing held on January 21, 2016. (Tr. 122-56.) The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on March 2, 2016. (Tr. 22-38.) The Appeals Council denied Jackson's request for review. (Tr. 5-7.) The matter is now ripe for review.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW AND FIVE-PART ANALYSIS

         This Court must review the Commissioner's decision to ensure that it is supported by substantial evidence and is based upon the proper legal standards. Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011). Substantial evidence is “more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983). Specifically, substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178 (quotation omitted). The Court “may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute [its] judgment for that of the [Commissioner], ” even if the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's decision. Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1239.

         Under the regulations promulgated by the Commissioner, the ALJ must follow a five-step sequential analysis when evaluating a disability claim. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a). That analysis is as follows:

1. The ALJ first determines whether the applicant is currently working; if so, the claim is denied.
2. The ALJ determines solely on the basis of the medical evidence whether the claimed impairment is “severe”; that is, an impairment or combination of impairments which significantly limits the claimant's physical or mental ability to do basic work activities; if not, the claim is denied.
3. The ALJ decides, again, only using medical evidence, whether the impairment equals or exceeds in severity certain impairments described in the Commissioner's Listing of Impairments; if it does, the claimant is automatically entitled to disability benefits.
4. The ALJ considers whether the applicant has sufficient RFC, defined as what an individual “can still do despite his limitations, ” to perform the claimant's past work; if so, the claim is denied.
5. The ALJ decides, on the basis of the claimant's age, education, work experience, and RFC, whether the claimant can perform any other gainful and substantial work within the economy.

20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4).

         The claimant has the burden of proof during the first four steps. Jones v. Apfel, 190 F.3d 1224, 1228 (11th Cir. 1999). At the fifth step, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to demonstrate that there are jobs within the economy that the claimant can perform. Id. If the Commissioner makes that showing, then the burden shifts back to the claimant to prove that he is unable to perform those jobs. Id.

         III. FACTS

         Jackson was 43 years old as of his alleged disability onset date. (Tr. 133, 404, 408.) He has a GED and most recently worked as a fast food worker and retail stock clerk, and he previously worked in a school cafeteria for about 10 years. (Tr. 134-39, 1611.) In 2010, Jackson moved from Iowa to Atlanta, Georgia, and at times, he has reported that he is homeless. (Tr. 133, 1612.)

         A. ...


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