United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
GROVER C. HOOKS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the court on the Motion to Incorporate
New Evidence Into the Records Evidence pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) filed by Plaintiff Grover C. Hooks on July 10,
2017. (Doc. # 15). In his Motion, Plaintiff contends that new
evidence, not previously considered by the Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) or Appeals Council, should be
submitted into the record. For the reasons set forth below,
the court finds that the Motion is due to be granted, and
this case is due to be remanded to the ALJ for consideration
of the new evidence.
filed his application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) on January 10, 2014, alleging disability
beginning June 18, 2013. (Tr. 24, 62). The Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) initially denied the claim
on March 4, 2014. (Tr. 24, 62). On December 7, 2015, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff was not disabled under Sections
216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act. (Tr. 32).
February 1, 2016, Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's
decision from the Appeals Council. (Tr. 19-20). On April 13,
2016,  Plaintiff, through his attorney, submitted
new medical evidence to the Appeals Council. (Tr. 193). The
Appeals Council added the evidence submitted on April 13,
2016 to the record, and that evidence is not the focus of the
motion currently before this court. (Tr. 6). The Appeals
Council summarily denied Plaintiff's request for review
on July 15, 2016. (Tr. 1-3). Following that denial, the final
decision of the Commissioner became a proper subject of this
court's appellate review. See Chester v. Bowen,
792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986) (finding the ALJ decision
final for purposes of judicial review when the Appeals
Council denied review).
was 60 years old at the alleged onset of his disability, and
62 at the time of the ALJ's December 7, 2015 decision.
(Tr. 30; Pl. Br. 6). Plaintiff has a high school education
and worked for all relevant periods as a garbage collector
driver (DOT Code 905.663-010). (Tr. 30, 52, 131-36). The ALJ
found Plaintiff to have the following severe impairments:
narcolepsy without cataplexy, diabetes mellitus, and
osteoarthritis. (Tr. 26, 67, 164). Plaintiff has not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since June 18, 2013, when his
narcolepsy allegedly caused an accident while Plaintiff was
driving a garbage truck. (Tr. 26, 50-51, 124).
claims that his narcolepsy causes extreme tiredness at least
three times a day. (Tr. 53). Before being diagnosed and
prescribed medication, Plaintiff had no indication that these
episodes would overtake him, or that they may cause a vehicle
accident. (Tr. 51). With medication, however, Plaintiff is
alerted to when his narcolepsy may overtake him, giving him
time to pull over (if driving) and retire for a 30-minute nap
to remedy the extreme tiredness. (Tr. 53-54). Plaintiff saw
Dr. Ozgun for the narcolepsy once every 3-4 months.
(See Tr. 298-99). Dr.Ozgun recommended that
Plaintiff plan an afternoon nap of 15-30 minutes to relieve
symptoms not remedied by his prescribed medications. (Tr.
Commissioner assigned Plaintiff a residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) of medium work, with the
exception that he is prohibited from all exposure to moving
hazards and heavy machinery. (Tr. 68-71). The non-examining
state agency physicians agreed with the RFC based on the
medical records from the sleep specialist Dr. Ozgun and the
primary care physician Dr. Thomas C. Pendleton. (Tr. 63-72).
It was determined that Plaintiff could not return to his
former job. (Tr. 30). However, the vocational expert
(“VE”) opined that Plaintiff enjoyed alternative
avenues of employment which could be performed by someone
cleared to work at the medium level of employment with the
restrictions resulting from his medical diagnosis of
narcolepsy. (Tr. 57-59). Additionally, the Commissioner found
that Plaintiff's claims regarding his exertional
limitations were not credible because of information found in
his Functional Report. (Tr. 29). The ALJ discounted
Plaintiff's credibility in part because the Functional
Report indicated that he continued to drive and do activities
such as take his granddaughter to school, go to church, and
other errands. (Tr. 157). Therefore, based on Plaintiff's
residual functional capacity, the VE's recommendation of
available work, and the discounted credibility determination
based on the Functional Report, the Commissioner found that
Plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. 32).
the record before the ALJ contained very little relevant
medical evidence concerning Plaintiff's
arthritis/osteoarthritis. The non-examining state agency
physicians agreed with the medium level employment RFC
assigned to Plaintiff, stating that Plaintiff could
occasionally lift 50 pounds and frequently lift 25 pounds.
(Tr. 69). At that time, the ALJ's RFC analysis
was supported by substantial evidence because there was no
medical evidence in the record relating to the osteoarthritis
or the physical limitations the condition allegedly imposed
on Plaintiff. Indeed, the treatment notes suggested that
Plaintiff had full range of motion and could exercise five
times a week. (Tr. 28).
the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled, Plaintiff
submitted new evidence to the Appeals Council from Dr. Snow,
which related exclusively to his arthritis/osteoarthritis
condition affecting his knees and shoulders. (Tr. 340-351).
The medical reports submitted to the Appeals Council
indicated that Plaintiff has consistently complained of
shoulder pain and knee pain to Dr. Snow. (Tr. 347). No
medical records from Dr. Snow were present in the record
prior to the Appeals Council review.
Snow saw Plaintiff six times between June 21, 2012 and
October 12, 2015. (Tr. 343-47). Plaintiff's shoulders
caused him pain due to crepitation, and Dr. Snow reported
that his range of motion was limited. (Tr. 343-47). With
regard to Plaintiff's knee, Dr. Snow's records stated
on June 21, 2012, “I will see him back in 1-3 months if
he wishes to consider something else on his knee. He might
want to investigate to see if there is anything could be done
short of a total knee. However, probably he would need a
total knee.” (Tr. 347). The Motion now before the court
requests to introduce new medical evidence showing that
Plaintiff underwent surgery for a total knee replacement on
April 11, 2017. (Doc. # 18-1 at 2).
Standard of Review
claimant presents new evidence first to the district court,
the court cannot consider the new evidence for the purposes
of a sentence four remand because “a reviewing court is
limited to the certified administrative record in examining
the evidence;” however, a federal court should remand a
case to the Commissioner to consider such evidence if a
claimant makes a sufficient showing under sentence six.
Ingram v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 496 F.3d 1253,
1267-68 (11th Cir. 2007); see also Caulder v. Bowen, 791 F.2d
872, 876 (11th Cir. 1986) (“[A]lthough the federal
court does not examine evidence that was not considered
during administrative proceedings, it should remand a case to
the Secretary to consider such evidence if a claimant makes a
sufficient showing [under sentence six].”).
obtain a remand under sentence six of 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), a claimant must establish that: (1) the evidence is
new and noncumulative; (2) the evidence is “material,
” such that there exists a reasonable possibility of
changing the administrative result; and (3) good cause exists
for the failure to submit the evidence at the administrative
level. Caulder, 791 F.2d at 877; see also Ingram, 496 F.3d at
1267 (“A remand to the Commissioner is proper under
sentence six when new material evidence that was not
incorporated into the administrative record for good cause
comes to the attention to the district ...