United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
ORDER A N D OPINION
J. RAVEKMAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
brought this action pursuant to § 1631(c) of the Social
Security Act (“the Act”), 42 U.S.C. §
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
Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). The parties consented to magistrate judge
jurisdiction. (Dkt. Entry dated 02/12/18). For the reasons
set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is
AFFIRMED IN PART AND REVERSED AND REMANDED IN
September 16, 2014, Plaintiff filed her application for SSI
and DIB alleging a disability onset date of November 15,
2013. [Record (hereinafter “R”) 175-82]. These
claims were denied initially on October 9, 2014, and upon
reconsideration on February 24, 2015. [R93, 97]. Thereafter,
Plaintiff filed a written request for hearing. [R116].
Plaintiff appeared and testified at a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on August 2,
2016, where she was represented by an attorney and amended
her alleged onset date to May 25, 2015, thus nullifying her
DIB claims. [R33-52]. A vocational expert (“VE”)
also testified. [Id.].
October 14, 2016, the ALJ denied Plaintiff disability
benefits. [R21-27]. Plaintiff then sought review by the
Appeals Council, which review was denied on August 5, 2017,
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
filed this action on September 29, 2017, seeking review of
the Commissioner's decision. [Docs. 1-2, 3]. The answer
and transcript were filed on January 19, 2018. [Docs. 6, 7].
On February 19, 2018, Plaintiff filed a brief in support of
her petition for review of the Commissioner's decision,
[Doc. 11], and on March 21, 2018, the Commissioner filed a
response in support of the decision, [Doc. 12], to which
Plaintiff replied on March 29, 2018, [Doc. 14]. The matter is
now before the Court upon the administrative record, and the
parties' pleadings and briefs,  and it is accordingly ripe
for review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and
claims that the ALJ made the following errors:
1. The ALJ's decision is based upon an error of law in
the evaluation of the opinion of treating physician Goins.
2. The ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial
evidence because it contains multiple errors of fact and is
based on incorrect or inappropriate reasons for discounting
Plaintiff's symptoms and limitations.
[Doc. 11 at 8, 12].
STATEMENT OF FACTS
was born in 1965 and was 50 years old on the alleged onset
date. [R196]. Plaintiff completed the tenth grade and worked
in the past as a babysitter, cafeteria worker, and home
health care aide. [R211]. She alleges disability due to due
to diabetes, high blood pressure, back pain, depression, pain
in her feet, and arthritis. [R210].
testified before the ALJ that she had “a lot of
problems[, ]” including visible knots in her right hand
and wrist. [R38]. She also complained of pain in her left
shoulder and right knee, [R42], with her knee pain being a
“10” on the pain scale, [R43]. She testified that
she had problems bending and could not stand for long, and
difficulty doing household chores in her apartment because
her legs regularly swelled and that she needed to elevate
them. [R40]. She further testified that her medical providers
wanted her to have a cardiac stress test done because they
were concerned that she had congestive heart failure, but she
could not afford the test. [R41].
submits that since she has not worked since 2009, [R210], she
did not have any income, [R37], and, therefore, her medical
treatment consisted of various visits to the emergency room
(“ER”) and the limited treatment offered by a
charity clinic, Healing Bridge Clinic. [Doc. 11 at 5].
was seen in the Piedmont Hospital ER on November 12, 2014 for
a cough with nausea, vomiting, and headache. [R338]. She
returned on Christmas Eve 2014 for a dry cough that began the
night before. [R341]. She had an abnormal ECG, with sinus
tachycardia,  and indications that she had previously
suffered a heart attack (“anterior infarction, age
undetermined”). [R346]. She returned to the ER in March
and April 2015, showing significantly elevated blood sugars.
[R354]. An abnormal ECG, with indications of a previous
anterior infarction, was again noted. [R357].
on May 10, 2015 for cough, chest tightness, and fluid
retention revealed bilateral lower extremity
edema. [R364]. Her ECG was again abnormal.
[R368]. Differential diagnoses included “acute coronary
syndrome (“ACS”),  decompensated heart failure,
pulmonary embolism, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease (“COPD”), asthma, bronchitis, influenza,
anxiety, malignancy[.]” [R366]. She returned nine days
later with complaints of back pain and an x-ray of her
thoracic spine revealed multi-level degenerative disc
26, 2015, Plaintiff presented to the Healing Bridge Clinic
where she was treated for right shoulder impingement and
right knee pain. [R405]. She returned on August 13, 2015
complaining of a two-year history of pain in her feet, wrist,
and back. [R388]. On November 5, 2015, she was evaluated for
right knee pain, bilateral upper and lower extremity
neuropathy, and a ganglion cyst on her right wrist. [R382].
26, 2016, Maurice Goins, M.D., the orthopedist who treated
Plaintiff at the clinic, completed a pain questionnaire, in
which he indicated that he first examined Plaintiff August
13, 2015 and again on May 26, 2016. [R397-99]. Dr. Goins
noted that Plaintiff had an onset of right knee pain and left
shoulder pain three years ago which caused constant, severe
pain. [R397]. He noted painful range of motion on exam and
diffuse intermittent edema. [Id.]. It was his
opinion that Plaintiff would need to lie down for a minimum
of two hours during the normal working day; would need to
elevate her feet on a daily basis; and he concluded that she
was not physically capable of performing even sedentary work
on a full-time basis. [R399]. There were no other opinions
from examining physicians in the record and no consultative
examinations were ordered.
asked the VE if Plaintiff could perform her past work (as
babysitter, cafeteria worker, and health aid) if she could
occasionally lift 20 pounds; frequently lift 10 pounds; stand
and sit for six hour in an eight-hour workday; occasionally
or frequently, kneel, crouch, crawl, stoop, balance, and take
stairs; never use ladders; occasionally be exposed to heights
and moving parts and reach overhead with her
(last visited 3/6/19).
arm. [R49]. The VE responded that she could not perform her
past work with those limitations, but that sufficient jobs
existed in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform,
such as laundry worker (DOT #361.687-014, 400, 000 positions
nationally), housekeeper (DOT #302.685-010, 800, 000
positions nationally), or office helper (DOT #239.567-010,
90, 000 positions nationally). [R49-50].
ALJ'S FINDINGS OF FACT
made the following findings of fact:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2014.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since May 27, 2015, the alleged onset date (20 CFR
416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease, right knee, left shoulder pain,
diabetes mellitus, and obesity (5'0”, 267 pounds,
BMI of 52.1) ([20 CFR] 416.920(c)).
. . .
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926).
. . .
5. The claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except she
can occasionally lift 20 pounds, frequently lift 10 pounds,
and stand, sit, and walk for six hours out of an 8-hour day.
She can never climb ladders, occasionally climb stairs,
stoop, balance, kneel, crouch, and crawl, occasionally reach
overhead with the left upper extremity, and tolerate
occasionally exposure to hazards.
. . .
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 CFR 416.965).
. . .
7. The claimant was born on May 27, 1965 and was 50 years
old, which is defined as an individual approaching advanced
age, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 416.963).
8. The claimant has a limited education and can communicate
in English (20 CFR 416.964).
9. 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 in “not disabled, ” whether or
not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41
and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that the claimant ...