United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
FINAL OPINION AND ORDER
F. KING UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
in the above-styled case brings this action pursuant to
§ 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), to obtain judicial review of the final decision of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration which
denied her disability application. For the reasons set forth
below, the court ORDERS that the
Commissioner's decision be REVERSED and
that the case be REMANDED for further
filed applications for a period of disability, disability
insurance benefits, and supplemental security income on July
5, 2013, alleging that she became disabled on December 7,
2012. [Record (“R.”) at 30, 363-73]. After
Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and on
reconsideration, an administrative hearing was held on
February 28, 2017. [R. at 64-98, 229-30, 269-79]. The
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) issued a
decision denying Plaintiff's applications on June 6,
2017, and the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review on February 26, 2018. [R. at 1-7, 30-41].
Plaintiff filed her complaint in this court on April 27,
2018, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final
decision. [Doc. 3]. The parties have consented to proceed
before the undersigned Magistrate Judge.
found that Plaintiff has degenerative disc disease and mood
disorder. [R. at 33]. Although these impairments are
“severe” within the meaning of the Social
Security regulations, the ALJ found that Plaintiff 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. [R.
at 34]. The ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of performing
her past relevant work as a deli clerk, sexton, and dining
room cashier. [R. at 39]. The ALJ also found that there are
other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy that Plaintiff can perform. [R. at 40]. As a result,
the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a
disability from December 7, 2012, the alleged onset date,
through the date of the ALJ's decision. [R. at 41].
decision of the ALJ [R. at 30-41] states the relevant facts
of this case as modified herein as follows:
The claimant testified at the administrative hearing that she
is 51 years old, has a tenth grade education, is five feet
seven and a half inches tall, and weighs 245 pounds. She does
not have any source of income and receives food stamp
assistance. The claimant injured her knee in 2002 and
reinjured it in 2006. She has a torn rotator cuff of the left
shoulder. In addition, she has bipolar disorder and hears
voices. She sometimes needs help to bathe and dress, but she
often stays in bed. She testified that she stopped using
marijuana in June 2012.
claimant alleges that she cannot work because of scoliosis,
bipolar disorder, knee pain, and depression. (Exhibit 2E at
2). She alleged the following on appeal: “I cannot walk
in the morning or stand for at least five minutes. I cannot
walk for three minutes without having to stop or without a
cane. I'm hearing voices that are telling me to hurt
myself.” (Exhibit 7E at 1). In her initial application
and on appeal, the claimant denied any mental health
treatment. (Exhibit 2E at 5; Exhibit 7E at 2).
claimant alleges a history that includes a fractured right
ankle in 1999, right knee surgeries in 2008 and 2010, and
left shoulder rotator cuff surgery in 2011. (Exhibit 3F at 2,
3; Exhibit 5F at 4). She reports that she has used a cane
since fracturing her ankle because “it never healed
properly.” (Exhibit 5F at 4, 5). Her allegation that
she has used a cane since 1999 is incongruent with her
subsequent work history, which included maintenance and
construction. (Exhibit 5F at 4). The claimant alleges that
she was diagnosed with scoliosis in November 2012. (Exhibit
3F at 2). Magnetic resonance imagining (“MRI”)
studies of the lumbar spine in April 2013 show early
degenerative disc disease with mild levoscoliosis and no
evidence of disc bulging or herniation. (Exhibit 5E at 9).
claimant had two consultative psychological examinations.
Consultative examiner Valerie McAdams, Psy. D., assessed the
claimant in December 2013 with mood disorder not otherwise
specified, opioid abuse, and rule-out opioid dependence.
(Exhibit 2F at 5, 6). The claimant denied being in treatment
and denied taking any psychotropic medication. The claimant
told Dr. McAdams that she had been assessed with “manic
depression” around 1996 and that she had experienced an
overdose of pills and alcohol in 2011. The claimant alleged
that she has been clean for five months from alcohol abuse,
prescription drug abuse, and heroin abuse, but she denied
participating in any substance abuse program since 2011.
(Exhibit 2F at 4). The claimant told Dr. McAdams that she is
capable of living independently, including bathing, dressing,
and cleaning her house. (Exhibit 2F at 3, 4).
McAdams noted that the claimant had no problems understanding
and responding during the evaluation. (Exhibit 2F at 5). In
interacting with others, the claimant has mild limitations.
She is married and attends substance abuse meetings without
any apparent difficulties. (Exhibit 2F at 4; Exhibit 5F at
5). With regard to concentrating, persisting, or maintaining
pace, the claimant has moderate limitations.
Kent, Ph.D., a consultative examiner, assessed the claimant
in November 2014 with bipolar disorder, reading disorder, and
borderline intellectual range provisionally. (Exhibit 5F at
7). Noting the claimant's self-reported history of job
injuries, Dr. Kent speculated that getting injured on the job
might be the claimant's way out of working in positions
that were too challenging or stressful to her. (Exhibit 5F at
7). Dr. Kent reported that the claimant walked with a limp
and carried, as opposed to used, a cane. (Exhibit 5F at 6).
The claimant alleged a history of three suicide attempts with
the most recent in 2009, denied substance abuse since 2013,
and denied receiving treatment or taking psychotropic
medication. (Exhibit 5F at 5, 7). Dr. Kent opined that the
claimant had moderate impairment in attention, concentration,
energy, and pace. (Exhibit 5F).
examiner Debbie Brewer, M.D., assessed the claimant with mild
S-shaped scoliosis of the thoracic and lumbar spine, no more
than five to ten degrees. (Exhibit 3F at 5). Dr. Brewer
diagnosed the claimant with only mild multi-level thoracic
spine degenerative disc disease and multi-level bulging of
the cervical spine at ¶ 3-C4, C4-C5, C5-C6, and C6-C7.
(Exhibit 3F at 11). The claimant also has moderate left ankle
degenerative joint disease. (Exhibit 3F at 5, 12). The
claimant told Dr. Brewer that she has a history of right knee
arthroscopic surgery and left shoulder rotator cuff tear
status post-surgical repair in 2011. Dr. Brewer noted that
the claimant had an antalgic gait and used a cane.
Examination showed slightly decreased strength; overall
muscle strength was 5/5, with lower left extremity at
; and grip strength left was and right was 5/5.
The claimant denied having a treating physician and reported
that she took only B.C. Powder and Tylenol for relief.
(Exhibit 3F at 3).
claimant reported incongruently throughout the record
concerning her daily abilities. For example, in her function
report, she denied driving, but she told Dr. Brewer that she
drove. In her function report, the claimant denied cooking,
but she told Dr. Kent that she cooked. (Exhibit 8E at 5;
Exhibit 3F at 3; Exhibit 5F at 5). Although in her initial
application the claimant reported special education from 1979
to 1983, she told Dr. Kent that she attended special
education from first grade through the eleventh grade.
(Exhibit 2E at 3; Exhibit 5F at 4).
the claimant was ages 47 to 51 during the relevant period,
has an eleventh grade education, and has a history of working
in maintenance and construction. (Exhibit 5F at 4). She
received worker's compensation twice prior to the
relevant period but has reported inconsistently concerning
the periods covered by these claims, from 1999 to 2001 and
from 2006 to 2011. (Exhibit 2F at 3; Exhibit 3F at 2; Exhibit
5F at 4).
facts will be set forth as necessary during discussion of