United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
King, Magistrate Judge.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's complaint
seeking judicial review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
of the final decision of the Commissioner denying his claim
for Social Security disability benefits. The fact and law
summaries of Plaintiff and Defendant are at Dockets 19 and
24, and the case is ripe for determination.
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. Docket 14.
a lack of evidence of improvement in Plaintiff's medical
condition supporting departure from the prior administrative
law judge's (ALJ's) finding that Plaintiff can only
occasionally push and pull with the bilateral lower
extremities, the current ALJ's decision did not comport
with applicable legal standards (Drummond v.
Comm'r). Therefore, the Court will REMAND this
matter to the Commissioner for a new decision.
v. Comm'r, 126 F.3d 837 (6th Cir. 1997) held that
the administrative law judge (ALJ) erred in finding that
Drummond had a residual functional capacity (RFC) for medium
work in light of the prior ALJ's finding that Drummond
had an RFC for sedentary work. The error was due to a lack of
evidence of improvement in Drummond's medical condition.
was based on principles of fairness (to protect claimants
from arbitrary re- adjudications of RFCs in subsequent
claims) and administrative res judicata. “Just as a
social security claimant is barred from relitigating an issue
that has been previously determined, so is the
Commissioner.” Id. at 842.
adopting Acquiescence Ruling 98-4(6), 1998 WL 283902, the
Social Security Administration recognized the applicability
of Drummond in cases arising within the Sixth
When adjudicating a subsequent disability claim with an
unadjudicated period arising under the same title of the Act
as the prior claim, adjudicators must adopt such a finding
from the final decision by an ALJ or the Appeals Council on
the prior claim in determining whether the claimant is
disabled with respect to the unadjudicated period unless
there is new and material evidence relating to such a finding
or there has been a change in the law, regulations or rulings
affecting the finding or the method for arriving at the
together, Drummond and Acquiescence Ruling 98-4(6)
establish that an ALJ is bound by the prior ALJ's RFC
finding unless there is new and material evidence of a change
(improvement) in the claimant's medical condition or a
relevant change in the law.
Drummond error occurred.
3, 2010, while working as a deckhand on a barge, a cable
broke and struck Plaintiff in the left leg. This resulted in
a transverse fracture within the mid-femoral shaft, with some
degree of comminution. The injury required multiple
corrective surgeries. Administrative Record (AR), p. 73.
prior ALJ found that Plaintiff was disabled from May 3, 2010,
through November 13, 2012, but that, as of November 14, 2012,
he had recovered sufficiently to perform a significant number
of light jobs in the national economy (office cleaner,
laundry worker, doorkeeper/greeter). AR, p. 79.
prior ALJ found that (beginning on November 14, 2012)
Plaintiff is limited to only occasional pushing/pulling with
the bilateral lower extremities, in part, due to a bulging
disc at ¶ 5-S1 with possible left-sided neural foraminal
encroachment and likely impingement of the left S1 nerve
root. AR, p. 73.
current ALJ identified no evidence that this medical
condition had improved such that Plaintiff can now perform
work requiring more than occasional ...