United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
CHANNING R. KNAPP, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BRADLEY MURRAY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Channing R. Knapp brings this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking judicial review
of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“the Commissioner”) denying his claim for a
Period of Disability and Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act
(“the Act”). The parties have consented to the
exercise of jurisdiction by the Magistrate Judge, pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 636(c), for all proceedings in this Court.
(Doc. 19 (“In accordance with the provisions of 28
U.S.C. 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, the parties in this case
consent to have a United States Magistrate Judge conduct any
and all proceedings in this case, … order the entry of
a final judgment, and conduct all post-judgment
proceedings.”)). See also Doc. 21. Upon
consideration of the administrative record, Knapp's
brief, the Commissioner's brief, and the arguments made
at the hearing on May 9, 2018 before the undersigned
Magistrate Judge, it is determined that the
Commissioner's decision denying benefits should be
applied for a Period of Disability and DIB, under Title II of
the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 423 - 425, on January 18,
2015, alleging disability beginning on August 29, 2014. (Tr.
150-51). His application was denied at the initial level of
administrative review on March 11, 2015. (Tr. 70-84). On
April 2, 2015, Knapp requested a hearing by an Administrative
Law Judge (ALJ). (Tr. 94-95). After a hearing was held on
July 14, 2016, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding
that Knapp was not under a disability from the date the
application was filed through the date of the decision,
September 20, 2016. (Tr. 52-69, 11-24). Knapp appealed the
ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council, and, on August 21,
2017, the Appeals Council denied his request for review of
the ALJ's decision, thereby making the ALJ's decision
the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-5).
exhausting his administrative remedies, Knapp sought judicial
review in this Court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§
405(g) and 1383(c). (Doc. 1). The Commissioner filed an
answer and the social security transcript on January 9, 2018.
(Docs. 11, 12). Both parties filed briefs setting forth their
respective positions. (Docs. 14, 16). Oral argument was held
on May 9, 2018. (Doc. 20). The case is now ripe for decision.
CLAIMS ON APPEAL
alleges that the ALJ's decision to deny him benefits is
in error for the following reasons:
1. The ALJ erred by relying upon a non-examining reviewing
physician's opinion to support his residual functional
capacity (RFC), and
2. The ALJ erred because her assessment of Knapp's RFC
was not supported by substantial evidence.
14 at pp.1-2).
was born on October 26, 1973, and was 41 years old at the
time he filed his claim for benefits. (Tr. 55). Knapp alleged
disability due to multiple disc problems in his back, back
pain after lower back surgery, pain and/or numbness in his
legs, knees, feet, ankles, and wrists, and irritable bowel
syndrome. (Tr. 59-60, 167). The highest grade in school he
completed was 10th grade, and he was not in
special education. (Tr. 168). Prior to quitting work in 2014
due to his back pain, Knapp worked as a vinyl siding
installer. (Tr. 57-59, 168). Knapp lives with his wife and
teenage son. (Tr. 56). In a typical day, Knapp wakes up early
in the morning, takes his medication, sits in his recliner
until they take effect, and helps his disabled wife with
housework and meals and his son with homework. (Tr. 62, 178).
He states that he can only stand for about 15 minutes at a
time and can only sit in his recliner. (Tr. 178). He has a
driver's license and is able to drive. (Tr. 181).
According to Knapp, he does quick trips to the grocery store
and tries to sit outside every day, but does not go out much
and is no longer able to camp, hunt, fish, or ride a 4
wheeler or motorcycle. (Tr. 62-63, 181-82). He claims that
his medications have helped his pain, but affect his
concentration, memory, and alertness. (Tr. 65-66, 183).
considering all of the evidence, the ALJ made the following
findings that are relevant to the issues presented in her
September 23, 2016 decision:
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease, and
obesity (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
* * *
5. After careful consideration of the entire record,
the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(b) except that he needs to be able to alternate
between sitting and standing at will, but will not need to
leave the work station, and he is unable to work around
The claimant alleges that he has bad knees and bad discs in
his neck and experiences pain from shoulder to shoulder,
lower back pain, lumbar radiculopathy, general joint pain and
popping, and popping in his shoulders and ankles. He has
problems sitting for long, can only stand and walk about 10
minutes at a time each, and does not sleep well. He can lift
things, but pays for it later. He spends much of the day
sitting in a recliner and changing positions to get
comfortable. He has a history of a failed back surgery. He
has been in pain management, and his medications have been
changed over the years in an attempt to find ones that work.
Medications help somewhat, but he experiences the side effect
of fatigue. Due to pain and medication side effects, he is
not able to concentrate long enough to watch a movie. He had
difficulties during the FCE on March 22, 2016. He felt
terrible and was bedridden for a day afterwards.
After careful consideration of the evidence, the undersigned
finds that the claimant's medically determinable
impairments could reasonably be expected to cause the alleged
symptoms; however, the claimant's statements concerning
the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of these
symptoms are not entirely consistent with the medical