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Reynolds v. Colvin

United States District Court, District of Nebraska

January 9, 2015

RYAN L. REYNOLDS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, and U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC H. HOLDER, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

S/ F.A. Gossett, United States Magistrate Judge

Plaintiff Ryan Reynolds claims in this Social Security appeal that the Commissioner's decision to deny him Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (the “Act”), and Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of the Act is contrary to law and not supported by substantial evidence. For the reasons explained below, the Commissioner’s decision will be reversed and remanded.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff applied for benefits on March 17, 2009. Plaintiff’s applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. Plaintiff appealed the denial to an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). Following an administrative hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on June 9, 2011, concluding that Plaintiff was not “disabled” within the meaning of the Act. (Tr. 122.)

Plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration (“Appeals Council”) review the ALJ’s decision. On January 26, 2012, the Appeals Council remanded Plaintiff’s case to the ALJ for reconsideration. (Tr. 140.) In doing so, the Appeals Council noted, among other things, that “the administrative record reveals evidence of a diagnosis and treatment for . . . an immunodeficiency, and chronic fatigue syndrome . . . but the decision does not discuss or make a severity finding for these conditions . . . Further consideration of the alleged impairments is necessary.” (Id.) The Appeals Council instructed the ALJ to do the following on remand:

(1) Correct the claimant’s date last insured and consider the evidence during the relevant period at issue.
(2) Obtain additional evidence concerning the claimant’s impairments in order to complete the administrative record in accordance with the regulatory standards regarding consultative examinations and existing medical evidence . . . The additional evidence should include a consultative physical examination and medical source statements about what the claimant can still do despite his impairments.
(3) Further, obtain evidence from a medical expert to clarify the nature and severity of the claimant’s impairments . . . Specifically, the medical expert should consider the effect that the combination of the claimant’s impairments and symptoms has upon his ability to perform work activity.
(4) Evaluate the claimant’s mental impairment in accordance with the special technique described in 20 CFR 404.1520a and 416.920a, documenting application of the technique in the decision by providing specific findings and appropriate rationale for each of the functional areas described in 20 CFR 404.1520a(c) and 416.920a(c).
(5) Give further consideration to the claimant’s maximum residual functional capacity during the entire period at issue and provide rationale with specific references to evidence of record in support of assessed limitations (Social Security Ruling 96-8p). In so doing, evaluate the treating and nontreating source opinions pursuant to the provisions of 20 CFR 404.1527 and 416.927 and Social Security Rulings 96-2p and 96-5p and nonexamining source opinion in accordance with the provisions of 20 CFR 404.1527(f) and 416.927(f) and Social Security Ruling 96-6p, and explain the weight given to such opinion evidence. As appropriate, the Administrative Law Judge may request the treating and nontreating sources to provide additional evidence and/or further clarification of the opinions and medical source statements about what the claimant can still do despite the impairments (20 CFR 404.1512 and 416.912). The Administrative Law Judge may enlist the aid and cooperation of the claimant’s representative in developing evidence from the claimant’s treating sources.
(6) Further evaluate the claimant’s subjective complaints and provide rationale in accordance with the disability regulations pertaining to evaluation of symptoms . . . and pertinent circuit case law and Social Security Ruling 96-7p.
(7) Obtain supplemental evidence from a vocational expert to clarify the effect of the assessed limitations on the claimant’s occupational base (Social Security Rulings 83-14 and 96-9p). The hypothetical questions should reflect the specific capacity/limitations established by the record as a whole. The Administrative Law Judge will ask the vocational expert to identify examples of appropriate jobs and to state the incidence of such jobs in the national economy (20 CFR 404.1566 and 416.966). Further, before relying on the vocational expert evidence the Administrative Law Judge will identify and resolve any conflicts between the occupational evidence provided by the vocational expert and information in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) and its companion publication, the Selected Characteristics of Occupations (Social Security Ruling 00-4p). In compliance with the above, the Administrative Law Judge will offer the claimant an opportunity for a hearing, take any further action needed to complete the administrative record and issue a new decision.

(Tr. 141-42.)

The ALJ held a second administrative hearing on September 13, 2012. Plaintiff, who was represented by attorney Paul Snyder, appeared and testified at the hearing. Robert Pelc, Ph.D, a psychological expert, and Jerry ...


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