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Jackson v. Berryhill

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

February 14, 2018

DEBORAH LAVON JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          FINAL REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON AN APPEAL FROM A SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY ACTION

          LINDA T. WALKER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, a forty-eight (48) year old female, seeks Title II disability, disability insurance benefits and Title XVI Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under the Social Security Act ("the Act"), alleging disability due to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. 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 Plaintiffs claim.

         Plaintiff fled applications for Social Security Disability and SSI benefits ("SSI") on January 15, 2007, alleging disability beginning September 1, 2006. (Tr. 329-33). Plaintiffs applications were denied initially on July 11, 2007, and again upon reconsideration on March 20, 2008. (Tr. 124-27). Plaintiff appealed to an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") who issued an unfavorable decision (Tr. 128-39), and the Appeals Council then remanded the case back to the ALJ. [1] (Tr. 140-43). A third hearing was held before an ALJ on September 30, 2014. (Tr. 105-23). Following the hearing, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. 15-35). Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision, but the Appeals Council denied the request. (Tr. 8-13). Plaintiff then appealed the decision to this Court. (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).

         For the 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.

         I. STANDARD FOR DETERMINING DISABILITY

         An 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 12months." 42U.S.C. §423(d)(1)(A). The impairment or impairments must result "from anatomical, psychological, or physiological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically accepted clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques" and are 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 that exists in the national economy." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)-(3).

         The burden of proof in a social security disability case is divided between the claimant and the Commissioner. Doughty v. Apfel 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 n.2 (11th Cir. 2001). 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. (Id.). Once the claimant has met this burden, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that, considering 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.

(Id.). 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. (Id).

         As 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 benefits.
(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. §§ 404.1520-1576.

         II. FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW OF THE ALJ

         The ALJ made the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:

(1) The claimant met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act ...

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