United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
LANNY KING, Magistrate Judge.
Judith Hogancamp filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of an administrative decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, who denied her application for disability benefits. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned Magistrate Judge to determine this case, with any appeal lying before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Plaintiff seeks review of a decision issued by administrative law judge (ALJ) Michael Comisky. This is Plaintiff's second application for benefits to be reviewed by this Court. This Court previously affirmed the Commissioner's final denial decision with regard to Plaintiff's first application in Hogancamp v. Commissioner, No. 5:12-CV-00040-R. In that case, Phylis Pierce was the ALJ.
Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ made several errors in denying her second application. In her fact and law summary, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in not giving controlling weight to the disabling opinion by her treating pain management specialist, Laxmaiah Manchikanti, M.D. The Court finds the argument to be unpersuasive because Dr. Manchikanti's opinion was part of the prior, not the current, administrative record.
Following this Court's Order for Further Briefing, Plaintiff contends in her supplemental brief that the ALJ erred in adopting ALJ Pierce's residual functional capacity (RFC) finding rather than determining her RFC de novo in light of new and material evidence submitted after the prior decision. The argument is persuasive.
Therefore, the Court will REMAND this matter to the Commissioner for a new decision and de novo determination of Plaintiff's RFC in light of new and material evidence submitted by Plaintiff.
Background facts and procedural history
Plaintiff alleges disability, in part, due to right lower extremity radicular symptoms and numbness and tingling in her hands.
In her decision dated October 5, 2010, ALJ Pierce limited Plaintiff to standing/walking for 2 out of 8 hours and sitting for the remaining 6 hour. AR, p. 75.
In February, 2011, in connection with the present disability claim, the state agency program physician adopted ALJ Pierce's prior RFC because there was "[n]o new current MER [medical evidence records] to review." AR, p. 326.
At the administrative hearing, Plaintiff submitted new medical evidence records from 2011 and 2012, consisting of an x-ray of her knees, a lumbar spine MRI, and a cervical spine MRI, the results of which might explain her allegedly disabling symptoms. AR, pp. 349-355.
The ALJ reviewed this evidence (AR, pp. 28-29) and concluded that it does not change ALJ Pierce's RFC: "The undersigned finds that new and material evidence received in relation to the claimant's current application for disability benefits does not significantly alter the findings of the... [RFC] as set forth by the prior [ALJ]." AR, p. 31.
The ALJ adopted ALJ Pierce's RFC pursuant to Drummond v. Commissioner, 126 F.3d 837 (6th Cir.1997): "As held in [ Drummond ], an [ALJ] is bound by the findings of another [ALJ] in a prior determination on the claimant's eligibility for social security benefits absent evidence of significant change [i.e., worsening, in this case] in a claimant's condition." AR, p. 26.
The ALJ denied Plaintiff's disability claim based upon a vocational hypothetical that explicitly contemplated ALJ Pierce's RFC. AR, p. 64.
The vocational expert (VE) testified that the individual could perform Plaintiff's past relevant work as a sedentary secretary and 911 dispatcher. AR, p. 32.
Plaintiff's fact and law summary and the Commissioner's response in opposition are at Docket Nos. 12 and 13.
The Court ordered the parties to brief some additional questions related to the ALJ's interpretation and application of Drummond and his finding that the new radiographic evidence was not material. Docket 14. The supplemental briefs of the Commissioner and Plaintiff are at Docket Nos. 15 and 18, respectively.
This matter is ripe for determination. The Court will first address Plaintiff's meritorious claims ...