United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
K. EPPS UNIED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Larsen appeals the decision of the Acting Commissioner of
Social Security denying his application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under the Social
Security Act. Upon consideration of the briefs submitted by
both parties, the record evidence, and the relevant statutory
and case law, the Court REPORTS and
RECOMMENDS pursuant to sentence four of 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), the Commissioner's final decision
be REVERSED and the case be
REMANDED to the Commissioner for further
consideration in accordance with this opinion.
applied for DIB in June of 2015, alleging a disability onset
date of October 10, 2013. Tr. (“R.”), pp. 203-09.
Plaintiff's last insured date for purposes of the DIB
application is December 31, 2019. R. 13, 288. Plaintiff was
thirty years old on his alleged disability onset date. R.
288. Plaintiff applied for benefits based on allegations of
PTSD, lower back problems, degenerative disc disease, a
“rare back disorder, ” knee problems, a
neurocognitive disorder, right shoulder problems, a herniated
disc, degenerative joint disease, moderate foraminal canal
stenosis, anxiety, and use of a C-PAP machine. R. 247, 266.
Plaintiff has a high school education and completed one year
of college. R. 248. Prior to his alleged disability,
Plaintiff had accrued relevant work history as an infantry
weapons crew member, mail room attendant and supervisor, food
handler, and produce clerk. R. 24, 74, 248, 267.
Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's
applications initially, R. 107-22, and on reconsideration, R.
123-41. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), R. 171-72, and
the ALJ held a hearing on May 11, 2017. R. 31-82. At the
hearing, the ALJ heard testimony from Plaintiff, who was
represented by counsel, as well as from Carey A. Washington,
Pd.D., a Vocational Expert (“VE”). Id.
On October 27, 2017, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision.
the sequential process required by 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520,
the ALJ found:
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since October 10, 2013, the alleged onset date (20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1571 et seq.).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: lumbar
spine disorder with radiculopathy, degenerative joint disease
of the right knee and right shoulder, mild neurocognitive
disorder, anxiety disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress
disorder, and obesity (20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c)).
3. 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 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525,
4. The claimant has the RFC to perform sedentary
as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a) except he can lift
no more than 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds
frequently. He can stand and/or walk for an aggregate of 2
hours in an 8-hour workday. He can stoop, balance, crouch,
kneel, and climb ramps and stairs no more than occasionally.
He cannot crawl or climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. He can
frequently reach overhead with his bilateral upper
extremities. He cannot have exposure to hazards such as
unprotected heights, vibration, or dangerous machinery. He
cannot have concentrated exposure to extremes of humidity,
heat, or cold. He is limited to performing simple, routine,
and repetitive tasks, but is able to maintain concentration,
persistence, and pace on such tasks for periods of two hours
without the need for special supervision; in a low stress
environment, meaning he should not be required to meet a
rigid, inflexible production schedule, make complex
decisions, or adapt to frequent changes in the routine work
setting, with any such changes also being gradually
introduced. He cannot have interaction with the general
public and cannot have close, tandem task interaction with
co-workers. He must use a cane to ambulate. Thus, the
claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20
C.F.R. § 404.1565).
5. Considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and RFC, there are jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that the claimant can
perform, including food service order clerk and addresser (20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1569 and 404.1569(a)). Therefore, the
claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the
Social Security Act, from October 10, 2013, through the date
of the ALJ's decision (20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(g)).
the Appeals Council (“AC”) denied Plaintiff's
request for review, R. 1-3, the Commissioner's decision
became “final” for the purpose of judicial
review. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff then filed this
civil action requesting reversal or remand of that adverse
argues the Commissioner's decision is not supported by
substantial evidence because the ALJ failed to properly: (1)
weigh the opinion evidence in determining Plaintiff's
RFC; (2) discount Plaintiff's subjective complaints; and
(3) develop a full and fair record. See doc. no. 17
(“Pl.'s Br.”); doc. no. 79 (“Pl.'s
Reply Br.”). The Commissioner maintains the decision to
deny Plaintiff benefits ...