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Brownlow v. Berryhill

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

March 28, 2019

ERIC BROWNLOW, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          BRADLEY MURRAY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff 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 denying his claims for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security income. 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. (Docs. 21 & 22 (“In accordance with 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.”)). Upon consideration of the administrative record, Plaintiff's brief, and the Commissioner's brief, [1] it is determined that the Commissioner's decision denying benefits should be reversed and remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this decision.[2]

         I. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed applications for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security income on April 13, 2012, alleging disability beginning on April 12, 2012. (See Tr. 184-193.) Brownlow's claims were initially denied on July 3, 2012 (Tr. 130, 137 & 144-50) and, following Plaintiff's July 12, 2012 request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) (Tr. 153-54), a hearing was conducted before an ALJ on August 22, 2013 (Tr.101-29). On December 20, 2013, the ALJ issued a decision finding that the claimant was not disabled and (Tr. 91-97) and, thereafter, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on June 9, 2015 (Tr. 1-4). Plaintiff appealed the administrative denial of his claims to this Court; a remand was ordered (see Tr. 447-471). Following remand, a supplemental hearing was conducted on August 16, 2016. (Tr. 413-446.) On February 9, 2017, the ALJ issued another decision finding that Brownlow was not entitled to a period of disability, disability insurance benefits, or supplemental security income. (Tr. 398-407.) More specifically, the ALJ again proceeded to the fifth step of the five-step sequential evaluation process and determined that Brownlow retains the residual functional capacity to perform those jobs identified by the vocational expert (“VE”) during the supplemental administrative hearing (compare Id. at 406 with Tr. 441-42). Sometime thereafter, the Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's unfavorable decision to the Appeals Council; the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on February 21, 2018. (Tr. 363-66.) Thus, the hearing decision became the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security.

         Plaintiff alleges disability due to a cataract, hypertension, vision loss with pain in the eyes, headaches, depression, left shoulder pain radiating from the neck, neck pain with radiculopathy, bilateral granulomatous anterior uveitis, bilateral lacrimal gland enlargement, possible sarcoidosis, and angle closure glaucoma with iris bombe and synechiae. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) made the following relevant findings:

3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: cataract in right eye and recurrent iritis in the right eye (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
4. 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 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: the claimant can perform no work requiring binocular vision. The claimant has sufficient visual acuity to handle and work with large objects and he can avoid workplace hazards.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on July 24, 1979 and was 32 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 404.1569, 404.1569(a), 416.969, and 416.969(a)).
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from April 12, 2012, through the date of this decision (20 CFR ...

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