United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
K. EPPS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Elaine Whitaker appeals the decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security denying her 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 the
Commissioner's final decision be AFFIRMED, this civil
action be CLOSED, and a final judgment be ENTERED in favor of
applied for DIB on March 5, 2014, alleging a disability onset
date of January 1, 2011. Tr. (“R.”), pp. 13,
155-161. Plaintiff's last insured date for purposes of
the DIB application is March 31, 2013. R. 14. Plaintiff was
fifty-seven years old on her alleged disability onset date.
R. 57, 155. Plaintiff applied for benefits based on
allegations of hypothyroidism, congestive heart failure with
dilate cardiomyopathy, plural effusion, coronary artery
disease (“CAD”), type 2 diabetes, and
“non-viable heart.” R. 190. Plaintiff has a high
school education and completed two years of college in 1974.
R. 191. Prior to her alleged disability, Plaintiff had
accrued relevant work history as a licensed vocational nurse
for both a hospital and assisted living facility. R. 22, 33,
Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's
applications initially, R. 57-63, and on reconsideration, R.
64-71. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”), R. 83-84, and the ALJ held a
hearing on February 17, 2017. R. 28-56. At the hearing, the
ALJ heard testimony from Plaintiff, who was represented by
Andrew S. Youngman and Elliot Durham, as well as from Robert
E. Brabham, Jr., a Vocational Expert (“VE”).
Id. On March 21, 2017, the ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision. R. 13-23.
the sequential process required by 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520,
the ALJ found:
1. The claimant did not engage substantial gainful activity
during the period from her alleged onset date of January 1,
2011, through her date last insured of March 31, 2013 (20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1571 et seq.).
2. Through the date last insured, the claimant had the
following severe impairments: degenerative joint disease of
the right hip and lumbar degenerative disc
disease/spondylosis (20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c)).
3. Through the date last insured, 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, and 404.1526).
4. Through the date last insured, the claimant had the RFC to
perform the full range of medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1567(c). Specifically, the claimant is able to
lift and carry up to 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds
frequently and stand, walk, and sit 6 hours each in an 8-hour
day. The claimant was capable of performing past relevant
work as a licensed nurse [(DOT # 079.374-014), medium
skilled, SVP 6]. This work did not require the performance of
work-related activities precluded by the claimant's
residual functional capacity (20 C.F.R. § 404.1565).
5. The Claimant was not under a disability, as defined in the
Social Security Act, at any time from January 11, 2011, the
alleged onset date, through March 31, 2013, the last date
insured (20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f)).
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 and remand of that adverse
decision. Plaintiff argues the Commissioner's decision is
not supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ failed
to properly develop the record to determine the onset date of
Plaintiff's chronic, disabling cardiac conditions. See
doc. no. 15 (“Pl.'s Br.”). The Commissioner