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Day v. Berryhill

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

January 26, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant



         This matter is before the Court on Magistrate Judge Catherine Salinas's Final Report and Recommendation [20] (“Final R&R”). The Final R&R recommends the Court reverse and remand the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) to deny Plaintiff Cleon Thelton Day, III's (“Plaintiff”) application for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits (“DIB”), and supplemental security income (“SSI”).

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         On October 12, 2012, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI, and on October 30, 2012, Plaintiff applied for a period of disability and DIB. (Transcript [8] (“Tr.”) at 224-32). In both applications, Plaintiff alleged a disability onset of June 1, 2010. (Tr. at 217, 224). On January 30, 2013, the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denied Plaintiff's application, and upon reconsideration, on April 4, 2013, the SSA affirmed its denial. (Tr. at 60-115). Plaintiff appealed to an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), who, on October 20, 2015, denied Plaintiff's claim, finding Plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. at 13-31). Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council (“AC”), which, on November 22, 2016, denied Plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. at 1-6). On January 23, 2017, Plaintiff appealed the AC's decision to this Court. ([1], [3]).

         A. Facts and ALJ's Findings

         Plaintiff, who was fifty-eight years old when he filed his application, alleges disability due to diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression. (Tr. at 62, 74, 88, 102). Plaintiff has a college education, and his past relevant work experience includes serving as a customer service representative and counselor. (Tr. 26, 39). According to the ALJ, Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 1, 2010, the alleged onset date. (Tr. at 19). The ALJ found Plaintiff's severe impairments were: major depressive disorder; anxiety disorder; diabetes mellitus; hypertension; obesity; and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). (Tr. at 19).

         In determining Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”), the ALJ concluded Plaintiff had the RFC to perform “less than a full range of medium work.” (Tr. at 22). The ALJ found Plaintiff is able to lift fifty pounds occasionally and twenty-five pounds frequently, can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and balance, perform simple, routine, repetitive tasks in a work environment free of fast-paced production requirements, make simple work decisions, and have occasional interaction with co-workers, supervisor, and the public. (Id.). The ALJ found Plaintiff can never climb ropes, ladders, and scaffolds, and that Plaintiff should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme vibrations, hazardous machinery, and unprotected heights. (Id.).

         In determining whether there were jobs that Plaintiff could perform, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a vocational expert (“VE”) and found there were “jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform.” (Tr. at 26). Based on the VE's testimony, the ALJ found Plaintiff can perform the requirements of medium, unskilled occupations such as a hand packager, warehouse worker, and hospital cleaner. (Id.). The ALJ concluded Plaintiff was not disabled. (Id. at 27).[2]

         B. Final R&R

         Plaintiff contends that the Commissioner erred because the ALJ concluded there were “few treatment records” with respect to Plaintiff's mental impairments. ([15] at 16-19). Plaintiff argues that the ALJ disregarded the records of (1) Christine Lloyd, a mental health technician at Grady Hospital and Plaintiff's case manager, who Plaintiff met with in person twice per month from September 2013 through December 2014, and (2) Dana Abraham, a senior licensed mental health clinician with Grady Hospital, who Plaintiff met with during a weekly outpatient depression group between September 2013 and November 2013. ([15] at 16-19; see also [20] at 6-7).

         On January 30, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued her Final R&R. The Magistrate Judge determined that the ALJ erred because, on review, it was unclear whether the ALJ considered all of the evidence in the record. ([20] at 18-20). The Magistrate Judge found that, “[w]ith no mention of Ms. Lloyd or Ms. Abraham's records in the in the ALJ's decisions, [she] [could not] determine if the ALJ adequately considered that evidence and properly weighed it.” ([20] ¶ 18). Plaintiff did not file any objections to the Final R&R.


         A. Legal Standards

         1. Review of a Magistrate ...

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