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Evans v. Saul

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Dublin Division

July 29, 2019

ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, [1]Defendant.



         Tonya L. McMiller Evans 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 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 the Commissioner.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff protectively applied for DIB on January 22, 2014, and SSI on August 25, 2015, alleging a disability onset date of December 31, 2012. Tr. (“R.”), pp. 17, 273-86. Plaintiff was forty-three years old on her alleged disability onset date and was forty-seven years old at the time the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) issued the decision under consideration. R. 273. Plaintiff had a previous disability application denied prior to the current applications under consideration. R. 323. In the current application, Plaintiff applied for disability benefits based on allegations of “rheumatoid arthritis neck down, ” gout, and heart problems. R. 335. Plaintiff graduated high school in 1989, completed cosmetology school in 1998, and, prior to her alleged disability, worked as a child care provider and a teacher's aide. R. 336.

         The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's applications initially and on reconsideration. R. 126-52. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ, (R. 159), and the ALJ held an initial hearing on September 14, 2016. R. 94-125. At the hearing, the ALJ decided additional evidence was needed and held a second hearing on January 26, 2017. R. 17, 50-68. The ALJ heard testimony from Plaintiff, who was represented by attorneys J. Frank Smith and Manning Miller, as well as Vocational Experts (“VE”) Dennis Patrick Conroy and Tina Baker-Ivey. R. 17, 50-68, 94-125. On March 21, 2017, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. R. 14, 17-27.

         Applying the sequential process required by 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 and 416.920, the ALJ found:

1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 31, 2012, the alleged onset date. (C.F.R. §§ 404.1571 et seq. and 416.971 et seq.).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: obesity, degenerative joint disease of the knees, and degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine (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[2] as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except she can lift twenty pounds occasionally, [and] ten pounds frequently. During an eight-hour workday, she can sit for a total of eight hours, [and] stand for two hours total (ten to fifteen minutes at a time) during an eight-hour workday. She must avoid climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and crawling. She can occasionally climb stairs, stoop, crouch, or kneel.
5. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and RFC, there are other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform, (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1569, 404.1569(a), 416.969, and 416.969(a)).

R. 14, 17-27.

         When the Appeals Council (“AC”) denied Plaintiff's request for review, R. 1-4, 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 decision. Plaintiff does not make any specific argument whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, but she does (1) request the Court review her case; and (2) consider newly submitted mental and physical medical evidence. See Pl.'s Br., doc. no. 16-1. The Commissioner maintains the administrative decision is supported by substantial evidence. See Comm'r's Br., doc. no. 18.

         II.STANDARD ...

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