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Jones v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Jasper Division

March 30, 2015

VERA JONES, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


R. DAVID PROCTOR, District Judge.

Plaintiff Vera Jones brings this action pursuant to Title II of Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act (the "Act"), seeking review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her claims for disability and disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). See 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g). Based on the court's review of the record and the briefs submitted by the parties, the court finds that the decision of the Commissioner is due to be remanded.

I. Proceedings Below

This action arises from Plaintiff's application for disability and DIB dated October 18, 2011. (Tr. 125, 140). Plaintiff alleged disability beginning on May 1, 2010. (Tr. 17, 140). The Social Security Administration initially denied Plaintiff's application on February 1, 2012. (Tr. 80). Plaintiff subsequently requested and received a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (Tr. 68). The hearing was held on June 8, 2012, in Florence, Alabama. (Tr. 30). Plaintiff appeared in Florence, Alabama, and was accompanied by her attorney. ( Id. ). Also present at the hearing was a Vocational Expert ("VE"). ( Id. ). In his decision dated July 5, 2012, the ALJ determined Plaintiff is not disabled under sections 216(i) and 223(d) of the Act. (Tr. 26). Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request, thereby making the ALJ's determination the final decision of the Commissioner, and a proper subject of this court's appellate review. (Tr. 1).

At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was fifty-two years old. (Tr. 38). Her highest level of education consisted of completing the eleventh grade. (Tr. 41, 46). Plaintiff's work experience includes working at a manufacturing company as a laborer, employment with another entity building furniture, and serving as a cashier and cook at a fast food business. (Tr. 38-39, 168-71). Plaintiff alleges disability beginning on May 28, 2010 due to anxiety, acid reflux, back pain, hip pain, stomach problems, and a hernia. (Tr. 144). Plaintiff's last day of work was in May 2010 when the manufacturing company she was employed by went out of business and she was laid off. (Tr. 38-39). Plaintiff subsequently filed for unemployment and drew benefits through December 2011. (Tr. 48-49).

In her application for disability benefits, Plaintiff noted that her daily activities include preparing coffee, meals, house cleaning, feeding her dog, and sitting. (Tr. 176-83). She further noted that most of her meal preparation activities are centered on making a bowl of cereal, making sandwiches, and using a microwave to prepare frozen dinners. (Tr. 176-80). Plaintiff's housework includes washing dishes and doing small loads of laundry; she claims that she does other light cleaning but it is time consuming, taking her one to two hours to complete. (Tr. 180). Plaintiff is unable to do yard work, but is capable of using money, shopping, and driving a vehicle. (Tr. 179-80). Plaintiff's hobbies include reading and watching television. (Tr. 180). Additionally, Plaintiff smokes approximately a fourth of a pack of cigarettes each day. (Tr. 38).

When discussing her pain with the ALJ, Plaintiff rated her pain on an average day between seven and nine on a ten-point scale. (Tr. 43). When asked about her daily activities, Plaintiff stated she primarily uses a microwave to prepare meals, sleeps on the sofa because it is closer to the floor (and therefore making it easier for her to pull herself up), and avoids picking up anything heavy. ( Id. ).

The record contains Plaintiff's past medical history from September 2009 to February 2012. (Tr. 147, 201, 285). In September 2009, Dr. Luis R. Davila assessed Plaintiff for upper gastrointestinal and lower gastrointestinal symptoms. (Tr. 207). Dr. Davila recommended that Plaintiff undergo an upper endoscopy and colonoscopy. (Tr. 208). That procedure resulted in an impression of gastroescophegeal reflux disease grade A, hiatal hernia, gastritis, non-ulcerdyspepsia, three colon polyps, and internal and external hemorrhoids. (Tr. 210).

In February 2010, Plaintiff received a mammogram screening which resulted in benign findings. (Tr. 213). In April and May 2010, Plaintiff was evaluated by Dr. V. Ramesh Reddy for complaints of indigestion. Dr. Reddy assessed Plaintiff with hyperlipidemia, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and anxiety/depression. (Tr. 221-22). In October 2011, Plaintiff was examined for chronic lower back pain by a physician with Prestige Family Medicine. (Tr. 226). An x-ray was ordered, and Plaintiff was directed to continue her daily use of Omeprazole for her GERD. (Tr. 226).

In December 2011, Plaintiff received a comprehensive psychological evaluation by Dr. H. J. Gragg. (Tr. 229-31). Dr. Gragg's diagnostic impression was that Plaintiff was experiencing some depressive mood and anxiety. (Tr. 230). Dr. Gragg assessed that Plaintiff's condition could be controlled with medications and that her conditions do not appear to rise to a level that would impede her employment. (Tr. 230-31).

In January 2012, Dr. Boyde J. Harrison assessed Plaintiff for a disability medical examination, which resulted in an impression of functional low back pain, mild scoliosis, and decreased vision in her right eye to distance. (Tr. 235). Dr. Harrison stated in his opinion that Plaintiff "can perform work related activities." ( Id. ).

Plaintiff's attorney amended her records in the case before the ALJ by submitting additional evidence on June 5, 2012. (Tr. 240). These records include Plaintiff's academic records, a psychological evaluation completed by Dr. Alan D. Blotcky, medical records from Northwest Alabama Mental Health Center, and medical records from Prestige Family Medicine. (Tr. 240-85).

Plaintiff's academic records begin in 1966 and end in 1976. (Tr. 240). The majority of her grades consist of "D" and "F" letter grades. (Tr. 241-85). Plaintiff's only high school letter grades of either a "B" or "C" as a semester average occurred in her ninth grade academic year; all other high school semester letter grades were in the "D" and "F" range. (Tr. 241-47).

Plaintiff was referred by her attorney to Dr. Blotcky on February 22, 2012 for psychological testing. (Tr. 261). Dr. Blotcky administered the WAIS-IV to Plaintiff, which resulted in a Full Scale IQ of 65, placing her in the mildly retarded range. (Tr. 261-63). Plaintiff was referred to and seen by a therapist from Northwest Alabama Mental Health ...

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