United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah
DON G. ANDERSON, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
LANNY KING, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff 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 his 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. The fact and law summaries of Plaintiff and Defendant are at Docket Number (DN) 22 and DN 25, and this matter is ripe for determination.
Because the substantial weight of the medical evidence fails to support the ALJ's finding that Plaintiff is able to perform work at all exertional levels, the Court will remand this matter to the Commissioner for re-evaluation of Plaintiff's physical residual functional capacity (RFC).
The administrative law judge (ALJ) issued the first of two denial decisions in this case, finding, in part, that: 1) Plaintiff suffers from status post wrist fracture, borderline intellectual functioning, and an adjustment disorder; 2) These impairments restrict him to light work involving simple, repetitive, routine tasks; and 3) Although he can no longer perform his past relevant work, he can perform a significant number of other jobs in the national economy. Administrative Record (AR), pp. 119-124.
The Appeals Council vacated the ALJ's decision and remanded for re-evaluation of Plaintiff's mental restrictions. AR, pp. 153-155.
In her second decision, the ALJ found that: 1) Plaintiff has no severe physical impairment satisfying the 12-month duration requirement; 2) He can perform a full range of work at all exertional levels; 3) Mentally:
he can perform simple one to three step tasks but no detailed or complex work, can occasionally work with the general public and preferably in a low stress environment with infrequent changes. No quotas or speed requirements would be preferable. Work should not require more than the claimant's limited math skills; [and therefore]
4) He can perform his past relevant work as a light laundry worker. AR, pp. 16-21.
Unlike the first decision, which limited Plaintiff to light work, the second decision found he can perform work at all exertional levels.
The ALJ's second decision became the Commissioner's final decision, subject to judicial review, when the Appeals Council declined further review. AR, pp. 1-3.
Res judicata does not limit Plaintiff to light work.
First, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ's redetermination of her prior RFC finding for light work offended principles of res judicata.
Drummond v. Commissioner, 126 F.3d 837, 842 (6th Cir.1997) held that, when the Commissioner has made a final administrative decision concerning a claimant's entitlement to benefits, res judicata binds the Commissioner to that decision, including the decision-maker's RFC finding, absent evidence of medical improvement or changed circumstances. In promulgating Acquiescence Ruling (AR) 98-4(6), the ...