United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
K. EPPS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Shavone Harris appeals the decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security denying her applications for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”) under the Social Security
Act. Upon consideration of the briefs, 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 on April 10, 2014, and protectively applied
for SSI on April 14, 2014, alleging an amended disability
onset date of March 2, 2012. Tr. (“R.”), pp. 13,
322-332, 378. For purposes of DIB, Plaintiff last met the
insured status requirements of the Social Security Act on
December 31, 2015. R. 13. Plaintiff was thirty-three years
old at her amended alleged disability onset date and was
thirty-eight years old when the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) issued the decision currently under
consideration. R. 24, 26, 378. Plaintiff applied for
disability benefits based on a combination of alleged
impairments, including nerve damage, pain and numbness,
cervical spine surgery, diabetes, high blood pressure,
obesity, acid reflux disease, and spine problems. R. 383.
Plaintiff completed the eleventh grade, and prior to her
alleged disability accrued a relevant work history as a nurse
assistant, housekeeper, dining room attendant, and daycare
worker. R. 24, 384.
Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's
applications initially and on reconsideration. R. 104-33,
138-69. Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an ALJ, R.
232, and the ALJ held a hearing on April 3, 2017. R. 37-96.
At the hearing, the ALJ heard testimony from Plaintiff, who
was represented by Dorita P. Watson, a non-attorney
representative, and Theresa Wolford, a Vocational Expert.
Id. On July 20, 2017, the ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision. R. 10-26. Applying the sequential process required
by 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 and 416.920, the ALJ
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since March 2, 2012, the amended alleged onset date
(20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1571 et seq. and 416.971 et
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: major
depressive disorder; panic disorder; morbid obesity;
degenerative changes of the cervical and lumbar spine, status
post C5-C6 anterior disc fusion; diabetes mellitus, type II;
carpal tunnel syndrome; gastro-esophageal reflux disease;
history of gastroenteritis and colitis; and hypertension. (20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) and 416.920(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,
404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
4. The claimant has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform sedentary work as defined in 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except
occasional climbing of ramps and stairs; no climbing of
ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; occasional balancing,
stooping, kneeling, crouching, or crawling; frequent handling
and fingering; simple routine tasks; and occasional
interaction with the public. Thus, the claimant is unable to
perform any past relevant work. (20 C.F.R. §§
404.1565 and 416.965).
5. Considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and RFC, there are jobs that exist in significant
No. in the national economy that the claimant can perform,
including final assembler, document preparer, and table
worker. (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1569, 404.1569(a),
416.969, and 416.969(a)). Therefore, the claimant has not
been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security
Act, from March 2, 2012, through the date of the ALJ's
decision. (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g) and
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review, R. 1-6, 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 the adverse decision.
Plaintiff argues the Commissioner's decision is not
supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ erred by:
(1) failing adequately to explain her RFC findings as to
Plaintiff's (i) migraine headaches and muscle spasms,
(ii) moderate difficulties in concentration, persistence, and
pace, and (iii) bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome; (2) failing
to properly consider whether Plaintiff's impairments met
or medically equaled the severity of Listing 1.04; and (3)
finding Plaintiff's subjective complaints as to the
degenerative changes of her cervical and lumbar spine were
not consistent with the objective evidence of record. See
doc. no. 19 (“Pl.'s Br.”). The Commissioner
maintains the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial
evidence and should therefore be affirmed. See doc. no. 20
STANDARD OF REVIEW
review of social security cases is narrow and limited to the
following questions: (1) whether the Commissioner's
findings are supported by substantial evidence, and (2)
whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards.
Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1439 (11th Cir.
1997). When considering whether the Commissioner's
decision is supported by substantial evidence, the reviewing
court may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or
substitute its judgment for the Commissioner's. Moore
v. Barnhart,405 F.3d 1208, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005);
Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145 (11th
Cir. 1991). Notwithstanding this measure of deference, the
Court remains ...