United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
ORDER AND OPINION 
J. BAVERMAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Tyrah Jenkins (“Plaintiff”) brought this action
pursuant to sections 205(g) and 1631(c)(3) of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3), to
obtain judicial review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“the Commissioner”) denying her application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income Benefits (“SSI”)
under the Social Security Act. For the reasons below, the
undersigned REVERSES the final decision of
the Commissioner AND REMANDS the case to the
Commissioner for further proceedings consistent with this
filed applications for DIB and SSI on October 30, 2008,
alleging disability commencing on June 1, 2004. [Record
(hereinafter “R”) 23, 134-47; Doc. 10 at
Doc. 13 at 1]. Plaintiff's applications were denied
initially and on reconsideration. [See R70-73].
Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”). [R94]. An evidentiary hearing
was held on July 26, 2010. [R40-66]. The ALJ issued a
decision on February 22, 2011, denying Plaintiff's
application on the ground that she had not been under a
“disability” at any time from the alleged onset
date through the date of the decision. [R23-34]. Plaintiff
sought review by the Appeals Council, and the Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review on June 20, 2012,
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. [R10-15]. Plaintiff then filed an action in
this Court in September 2012, seeking review of the
Commissioner's decision. Jenkins v. Colvin, Civ.
Action No. 1:12-cv-3355-ECS (N.D.Ga.), ECF Nos. 1-3. After
Plaintiff filed her initial brief, the Commissioner filed a
consent motion under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
to enter a judgment with a reversal and remand of the cause
to the Commissioner for further proceedings and issuance of a
new decision. Id., ECF No. 11 (May 1, 2013). On May
28, 2013, the Court granted the motion and entered an Order
reversing the decision under sentence four, remanding the
case to the Commissioner for further proceedings, and
specifying that upon remand, the Commissioner was to instruct
the ALJ to further develop the record and obtain testimony
from a vocational expert. Id., ECF No. 12.
to the Order entered by the District Court, the Appeals
Council directed the Commissioner to offer Plaintiff a new
hearing, address evidence that was submitted to the Appeals
Council, take any action needed to complete the
administrative record, and issue a new decision. [R514-16]. A
second evidentiary hearing was held on February 19, 2015,
before a different ALJ. [R460-511]. The ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision on May 4, 2015, denying Plaintiff's
application on the ground that she had not been under a
“disability” at any time from the onset date
through the date of the decision because she was able to
perform past relevant work as it is generally performed.
[R440-59]. Plaintiff sought review by the Appeals Council,
and the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review on June 25, 2016, making the ALJ's decision the
final decision of the Commissioner. [R432-39].
then initiated the present action in this Court in August
2016, seeking review of the Commissioner's most recent
decision. [Docs. 1-3]. The answer and transcript were filed
on December 12, 2016. [See Docs. 6, 7]. On January
10, 2017, Plaintiff filed a brief in support of her petition
for review of the Commissioner's decision, [Doc. 10]; on
March 10, 2017, the Commissioner filed a response in support
of the decision, [Doc. 13]; and on March 21, 2017, Plaintiff filed
a reply brief in support of her petition, [Doc. 14]. The
matter is now before the Court upon the administrative
record, the parties' pleadings, and the parties'
briefs, and it is accordingly ripe for review pursuant to 42
U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).
STANDARD FOR DETERMINING DISABILITY
individual is considered disabled for purposes of disability
benefits if he 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), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The
impairment or impairments must result from anatomical,
psychological, or physiological abnormalities which 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 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),
burden of proof in a Social Security disability case is
divided between the claimant and the Commissioner. The
claimant bears the primary burden of establishing the
existence of a “disability” and therefore
entitlement to disability benefits. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1512(a), 416.912(a). The Commissioner uses a
five-step sequential process to determine whether the
claimant has met the burden of proving disability.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a);
Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278
(11th Cir. 2001); Jones v. Apfel, 190
F.3d 1224, 1228 (11th Cir. 1999). The claimant
must prove at step one that he is not undertaking substantial
gainful activity. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). At step two, the
claimant must prove that he is suffering from a severe
impairment or combination of impairments that significantly
limits his ability to perform basic work-related activities.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii),
416.920(a)(4)(ii). At step three, if the impairment meets one
of the listed impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Part
404 (Listing of Impairments), the claimant will be considered
disabled without consideration of age, education, and work
experience. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii). At step four, if the
claimant is unable to prove the existence of a listed
impairment, he must prove that his impairment prevents
performance of past relevant work. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv). At step
five, the regulations direct the Commissioner to consider the
claimant's residual functional capacity, age, education,
and past work experience to determine whether the claimant
can perform other work besides past relevant work.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v),
416.920(a)(4)(v). The Commissioner must produce evidence that
there is other work available in the national economy that
the claimant has the capacity to perform. Doughty,
245 F.3d at 1278 n.2. To be considered disabled, the claimant
must prove an inability to perform the jobs that the
Commissioner lists. Id.
any step in the sequence a claimant can be found disabled or
not disabled, the sequential evaluation ceases and further
inquiry ends. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). Despite the shifting of
burdens at step five, the overall burden rests on the
claimant to prove that he is unable to engage in any
substantial gainful activity that exists in the national
economy. Doughty, 245 F.3d at 1278 n.2; Boyd v.
Heckler, 704 F.2d 1207, 1209 (11th Cir.
1983), superseded by statute on other grounds by 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(5), as recognized in Elam v. R.R.
Ret. Bd., 921 F.2d 1210, 1214 (11th Cir.
SCOPE OF JUDICIAL REVIEW
limited scope of judicial review applies to a denial of
Social Security benefits by the Commissioner. Judicial review
of the administrative decision addresses three questions: (1)
whether the proper legal standards were applied; (2) whether
there was substantial evidence to support the findings of
fact; and (3) whether the findings of fact resolved the
crucial issues. Washington v. Astrue, 558 F.Supp.2d
1287, 1296 (N.D.Ga. 2008); Fields v. Harris, 498
F.Supp. 478, 488 (N.D.Ga. 1980). This Court may not decide
the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute its
judgment for that of the Commissioner. Dyer v.
Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir.
2005). If substantial evidence supports the
Commissioner's factual findings and the Commissioner
applies the proper legal standards, the Commissioner's
findings are conclusive. Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d
1436, 1439-40 (11th Cir. 1997); Barnes v.
Sullivan, 932 F.2d 1356, 1358 (11th Cir.
1991); Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529
(11th Cir. 1990); Walker v. Bowen, 826
F.2d 996, 999 (11th Cir. 1987) (per curiam);
Hillsman v. Bowen, 804 F.2d 1179, 1180
(11th Cir. 1986) (per curiam); Bloodsworth v.
Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir.
evidence” means “more than a scintilla, but less
than a preponderance.” Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d
at 1239. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, and it must
be enough to justify a refusal to direct a verdict were the
case before a jury. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401 (1971); Hillsman, 804 F.2d at 1180;
Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1239. “In determining
whether substantial evidence exists, [the Court] must view
the record as a whole, taking into account evidence favorable
as well as unfavorable to the [Commissioner's]
decision.” Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131
(11th Cir. 1986) (per curiam). Even where there is
substantial evidence to the contrary of the ALJ's
findings, the ALJ decision will not be overturned where
“there is substantially supportive evidence” of
the ALJ's decision. Barron v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d
227, 230 (11th Cir. 1991). In contrast, review of
the ALJ's application of legal principles is plenary.
Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1558 (11th
Cir. 1995); Walker, 826 F.2d at 999.
was born on August 21, 1979, and therefore was thirty-five
years old at the time the ALJ issued the second adverse
decision. [R156, 453]. She alleges disability due to
schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, severe
depression, posttraumatic stress disorder
(“PTSD”), generalized anxiety disorder, and
borderline intellectual functioning. [R160, 466].
reports that her mental impairments cause her to experience
auditory hallucinations, visual hallucinations, and paranoia,
and that she has been seeing doctors since she was a
teenager. [R268, 282, 353, 472]. She indicates that she has
been terminated from multiple jobs due to her hallucinations
and fighting with coworkers and bosses, [R44, 392], and that
she had been expelled from school for fighting and went to an
alternative school, [R472]. She indicates that she spends
most of her day alone in her room sleeping due to her
medications. [R58, 489, 498]. She also testifies that she
does not cook, vacuum, or do laundry, and she breaks dishes
when she washes them. [R486-89]. She states that she watches
the news on television and shops with her mother but that she
does not shop alone because she hears voices and sees things
and it becomes overwhelming. [R490, 491, 494]. She indicates
that she drives about once a month. [R491]. She reports that
she sees her mother, stepfather, children, and boyfriend, but
does not have any other friends or socialize with other
family members. [R58, 493, 500-01].
reports that although she takes the medication prescribed by
her psychiatrist, she continues to experience auditory and
visual hallucinations, paranoid thinking, and bizarre
perceptual thoughts, like seeing dead people walking around,
thinking someone will kill or hurt her, and constantly
thinking in detail about how she, her mother, and her kids
would die. [R497-98]. She continues to be paranoid and to see
things that are not there and to hear voices and sounds on a
daily basis. [R497-98, 501-02]. She testifies that although
she takes her medication every day and night, her condition
is still like a roller coaster: she will have a month or two
when she feels better-she still sees and hears things and has
panic attacks and paranoia, but it is not as intense-and then
her condition will worsen again. [R496-97, 501-03].
decision issued after the second hearing, the ALJ 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, 2007.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since June 1, 2004, the alleged onset date (20 CFR
404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
schizoaffective disorder, cocaine abuse, bipolar disorder,
posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety
disorder (GAD) and borderline intellectual ...