United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
K. EPPS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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 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 February 8, 2013, and SSI on February 22,
213, alleging a disability onset date of August 29, 2012. Tr.
(“R.”), pp. 44, 209-218. Plaintiff was
forty-seven years old at her alleged disability onset date
and was fifty-one years old at the time the Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) issued the decision under
consideration. R. 276. Plaintiff initially applied for
benefits based on allegations of chronic migraines and neck
pain. R. 256. Plaintiff has a high school diploma, and prior
to her alleged disability, Plaintiff had accrued relevant
work history as a machine operator, feeder and spooler. R.
53, 69, 76-82, 247, 263.
Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's
applications initially and on reconsideration. R. 38-39,
153-56. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ, (R.
157-58), and the ALJ held a hearing on June 13, 2016. R.
59-101. At the hearing, the ALJ heard testimony from
Plaintiff, who appeared with counsel Shani Franklin, as well
as from Vocational Expert (“VE”) Robert E.
Brabham. Id. On July 14, 2016, the ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision. R. 44-54.
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 August 29, 2012, the alleged onset date (20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1571 et seq. and 416.971
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine; recurrent
migraine headaches; and levoscoliosis (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 light work as defined in 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except for the
following limitations: no lifting or carrying over 20 pounds
occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; no more than frequent
stooping, crouching, kneeling, or climbing of stairs or
ramps; no more than occasional crawling or climbing of
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; and no more than occasional
overhead reaching with the bilateral upper extremities.
5. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work
as the following: (1) machine operator (feeder) (DOT section
699.686-010), which was unskilled work, with an SVP code of
two, generally performed at the medium exertional level but
performed by the claimant at the light exertional level; and
(2) machine operator (spooler) (DOT section 681.685-114),
which was unskilled work, with an SVP code of two, generally
and actually performed by the claimant at the light
exertional level. This work does not require the performance
of work-related activities precluded by the claimant's
residual functional capacity (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1565
the ALJ determined Plaintiff could perform her past relevant
work, the sequential evaluation process stopped, and the ALJ
concluded Plaintiff was not under a disability, as defined in
the Social Security Act, from August 29, 2012, through the
date of the decision, July 14, 2016. R. 54. When the Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the
ALJ's decision, R. 15-17, 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 argues the ALJ erred by (1) failing to
include any vocational limitations based on Plaintiff's
severe impairment of recurrent migraine headaches, thus
creating an RFC which is inconsistent with the ALJ's
findings; (2) failing to find Plaintiff meets Listing
12.05(C); and (3) by not obtaining Plaintiff's childhood
school records, which show Plaintiff's IQ score and
related testing at the time, thereby failing to develop a
full and fair record. See doc. no. 16
(“Pl.'s Br.”). Plaintiff also argues if the
Court does not find remand proper for these reasons under
sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), then the Court
should remand under sentence six of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
because Plaintiff's childhood school records were not a
part of the record on administrative review. Id. The
Commissioner maintains the decision to deny Plaintiff
benefits is supported by substantial evidence and should
therefore be affirmed. See doc. no. 19
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 obligated to scrutinize the whole record to
determine whether substantial evidence supports each
essential administrative finding. Bloodsworth v.
Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983).
Commissioner's factual findings should be affirmed if
there is substantial evidence to support them. Barron v.
Sullivan, 924 F.2d 227, 230 (11th Cir. 1991).
Substantial evidence is “more than a scintilla, but
less than a preponderance: ‘[i]t is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.'” Martin v.
Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990) (quoting
Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1239). If the Court finds
substantial evidence exists to support the Commissioner's
factual findings, it must uphold the Commissioner even if the
evidence preponderates in favor of the claimant. Crawford
v. Comm'rof Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155,
1158-59 (11th Cir. 2004). Finally, the Commissioner's
findings of fact must be grounded ...