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Grayson v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

August 13, 2018

CARL L. GRAYSON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Carl L. Grayson 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, Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), based on disability. 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. 21 (“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. 22. Upon consideration of the administrative record, Grayson's brief, the Commissioner's brief, all other documents of record, and oral argument, it is determined that the Commissioner's decision denying benefits should be affirmed.[1]


         On May 20, 2013, Grayson applied for a Period of Disability and DIB, under Title II of the Social Security Act, and for SSI, based on disability, under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (“the Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383d, alleging disability beginning on December 31, 2012. (Tr. 312-327). After his application was denied at the initial level of administrative review on September 24, 2013, Grayson requested a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Tr. 139-43; 152-53). After an initial hearing was held on November 5, 2014 before ALJ Renee Blackmon Hagler, but no decision issued, a second hearing was held before ALJ L. Dawn Pischek on February 10, 2016. (Tr. 87-120; 68-86). After ALJ Pischek conducted a supplemental hearing on May 11, 2016, she issued a decision denying Grayson's claims on August 25, 2016. (Tr. 50-67; 21-42). Grayson appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council, which denied his request for review on September 7, 2017. (Tr. 1-3).

         After exhausting his administrative remedies, Grayson 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 16, 2018. (Docs. 10, 11). On February 5, 2018, Grayson filed a brief in support of his claim. (Doc. 12). The Commissioner filed her brief on May 17, 2018. (Doc. 16). Oral argument was held before the undersigned Magistrate Judge on August 8, 2018. (Doc. 20). The case is now ripe for decision.


         Grayson presents the following claims in this appeal:

1. Whether the ALJ committed reversible error in violation of Social Security Rulings 96-8p and 96-6p by failing to assess mental limitations when formulating Grayson's Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) despite finding that he had the severe impairments of borderline intellectual functioning and adjustment disorder; and
2. Whether the ALJ's RFC determination was supported by substantial evidence. (Doc. 12 at p. 2).


         Grayson was born on January 25, 1962, making him 51 years old at the time he filed his claim for benefits. (Tr. 312). Grayson initially alleged disability due to sleep apnea, insomnia, high blood pressure, weak heart, forgetfulness, allergies, asthma, borderline diabetes, and headaches. (Tr. 362). He left high school during 12th grade in 1980, after having attended primarily regular classes, but not performing well, when he was in school. (Tr. 91-92, 355, 363). He has not completed any type of specialized job training, trade, or vocational school. (Tr. 92, 363). He worked until 2011 as a cement finisher and from February to December of 2012 as a stocker at Wal-Mart. (Tr. 93-94, 363). He stated that he lost his most recent job due to job performance issues that arose because of the problems associated with his sleep apnea and insomnia. (Tr. 598).

         Grayson generally handles his own personal care. (Tr. 100, 384). During the relevant period here, he lived with his mom. (Tr. 71-72, 91, 383). According to Grayson, his mom cooks all of his meals, does all of the shopping, and takes care of household tasks. (Tr. 100, 385-86). He does not pay bills, handle a savings account, or use a checkbook or money orders because he sometimes makes mistakes with his money and his mom does everything for him. (Tr. 386-87). He spends his time watching television and talking to his mom and children. (Tr. 101, 387). He alleges that he cannot pay attention for long because he falls asleep and that he cannot follow written instructions, but can follow spoken instructions if they are repeated. (Tr. 388). He gets along with authority figures and other people, but does not handle stress or changes in routine well. (Tr. 389).

         Grayson testified at the first hearing in November of 2014 that he cannot do his prior jobs because of problems with his back, knees, sleep apnea, and dizzy spells. (Tr. 95, 103-04). At the second hearing in February of 2016, he continued to complain of problems with his back, knees, sleep apnea, and dizziness. (Tr. 72). At the time of both hearings, he used a cane to assist with walking. (Tr. 76-77). After conducting the hearing in February of 2016 and a supplemental hearing in May of 2016, the ALJ made a determination that Grayson had not been under a disability during the relevant time period, and thus, was not entitled to benefits. (Tr. 21-).

         IV. ...

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