United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
FINAL REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON AN APPEAL FROM A
SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY ACTION
T. WALKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
seeks Title XVI Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under the Social Security Act (“the
Act”), alleging disability due to blindness in his left
eye, a bullet in his spine, a right hand injury, heart
disease, chronic back pain, numbness in his arms and fingers,
and high blood pressure. (Transcript (“Tr.”)
310). 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”), who denied Plaintiff's
protectively filed an application for SSI on May 3, 2011,
alleging disability beginning on January 2, 2010. (Tr. 13).
After that application was denied initially and on
reconsideration, Plaintiff appealed to an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”), who denied Plaintiff's claim
on March 23, 2013, finding Plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr.
20, 80-90). Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision to the
Appeals Council (“AC”), which remanded the case
for further action. (Tr. 96-99). The ALJ held another hearing
on July 24, 2014. (Tr. 20, 41-72). After the hearing, the ALJ
issued a partially favorable decision on November 21, 2014,
finding Plaintiff was disabled beginning on November 17,
2012,  but not before that date. (Tr. 20-33).
Plaintiff filed a request for review, which the AC denied on
May 25, 2016, rendering the ALJ's decision final. (Tr.
5-10). Plaintiff then appealed the decision to this Court.
(Doc. 4). 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. §
reasons set forth below, it is RECOMMENDED
that the decision of the Commissioner be
AFFIRMED, and this action be
DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
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. § 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. §§
burden of proof in a Social Security disability case is
divided between the claimant and the Commissioner. Boyd
v. Heckler, 704 F.2d 1207, 1209 (11th Cir. 1983). 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
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.
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
(1) The Commissioner must determine whether the claimant 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
claimant'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 claimant has
sufficient residual functional capacity to perform past work;
if so, the claim is denied.
(5) The Commissioner must determine, on the basis of the
claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual
functional capacity, whether the claimant 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 has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date (20 C.F.R. §§
416.971 et. seq.).
(2) Since the alleged onset date of disability, January 2,
2010, the claimant has had the following severe impairments:
gastroesophageal reflux disease (“GERD”); blind
in the left eye, spondylosis, degenerative disc disease,
polysubstance abuse in early remission, and major depressive
disorder (20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c)).
(3) Since the alleged onset date of disability, January 2,
2010, the claimant has not had an impairment or combination
of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the
listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1 (20
C.F.R. §§ 416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926).
(4) Since January 2, 2010, the claimant has the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform less than
a full range of work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §
416.967(b). The claimant can lift and carry twenty pounds
occasionally and ten pounds frequently. The claimant can sit
and stand for six hours out of an eight-hour workday with
normal breaks. The claimant can perform occasional to never
pushing and pulling with the right upper extremity. The
claimant can perform occasional foot controls with the right
lower extremity. The claimant can never climb ladders, ropes,
or scaffolds. The claimant is able to occasionally climb
ramps or stairs. The claimant is able to occasionally
balance, kneel, crawl, stoop, and crouch. The claimant can
perform work that does not require repetitive rotation with
his neck. The claimant is able to occasionally reach overhead
with the right extremity with the assistance of his left
extremity, but can frequently handle and finger objects with
the right upper extremity. The claimant should avoid
concentrated exposure to extreme vibrations, hazardous
machinery, unprotected heights, and operational control of
moving machinery that would require the use of the right
upper extremity. The claimant is also limited to occupations
that do not require sight of the left eye. The claimant is
limited in his ability to use fine detailed vision in the
right eye. The claimant can perform work that is limited to
simple, routine, and repetitive tasks or instructions. The
job must be with occasional decision making and few changes
in the work setting and not at productions pace. The claimant
can have occasional interaction with the general public,
co-workers, or supervisors. The claimant would also be off
task three percent of the time.
(5) Since January 2, 2010, the claimant has been unable to
perform any past relevant work (20 C.F.R. § 416.965).
(6) Prior to the established disability onset date, the
claimant was an individual closely approaching advanced age.
On November 17, 2012, the claimant's age category changed
to an individual of advanced age (20 C.F.R. § 416.963).
(7) The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English (20 C.F.R. § 416.964).
(8) Prior to November 17, 2012, transferability of job skills
is not material to the determination of disability because
using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a
finding that the claimant is “not disabled”
whether or not claimant has transferable job skills.
Beginning on November 17, 2012, the claimant has not been
able to transfer job skills to other occupations
(See SSR 82-41, 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app.
(9) Prior to November 17, 2012, the date the claimant's
age category changed, considering the claimant's age,
education, work experience, and RFC, there were jobs that
existed in significant numbers in the national economy that
the claimant could have performed (20 C.F.R. §§
416.969 and 416.969(a).
(10) Beginning on November 17, 2012, the date the
claimant's age category changed, considering the
claimant's age, education, work experience, and RFC,
there are no jobs that exist in significant numbers in the
national economy that claimant ...