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Napier v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division

January 29, 2019

KYLE NAPIER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.


          Danny C. Reeves United States District Judge

         This matter is pending for consideration of cross-motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff Kyle Napier and Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“the Commissioner”). [Record Nos. 1');">13, 1');">15] Napier contends that the ALJ assigned to his case did not properly evaluate his subjective complaints of pain and that the ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial evidence. He asks the Court to enter an award of benefits or, alternatively, to remand the matter for a new administrative hearing. The Commissioner, however, argues that the ALJ properly evaluated the evidence and that the ALJ's decision should be affirmed because it is supported by substantial evidence.

         After examining all relevant arguments that have been properly presented, the Court will grant the Commissioner's motion and deny the relief sought by Napier.


         Napier filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”) on January 1');">11');">1, 201');">16. [See Administrative Transcript, “Tr.” 1');">17.] He previously filed a disability application on November 9, 201');">12, but ALJ Tommye Mangus issued an unfavorable decision on the prior claim. [Tr. 61');">1-77] In his current application, Napier alleged a disability onset date of April 7, 201');">12, which he later amended to January 1');">11');">1, 201');">16. [Tr. 21');">19] The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denied his application initially and upon reconsideration. [Tr. 1');">106, 1');">127] Napier then requested a hearing before an ALJ. [Tr. 1');">158] ALJ Brandie Hall issued a written opinion following the administrative hearing, finding that Napier was not disabled. [Tr. 1');">14-39] The Appeals Council subsequently denied Napier's request for review. [Tr. 1');">1-8]

         Napier has exhausted his administrative remedies and this matter is ripe for review under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1');">1383(c)(3).


         Napier was 42 years-old at the time of the ALJ's decision. He previously worked as a truck driver and bulldozer operator. [Tr. 47-48] Napier attended school through the 8th grade. [Tr. 251');">1] He obtained a commercial driver's license, but it expired in 201');">15. [Tr. 251');">1] Napier currently resides with his wife and adult son. [Tr. 52]

         Napier previously filed an application for benefits in 201');">12 for an alleged disability beginning April 7, 201');">12. [Tr. 64] As noted above, an unfavorable decision was rendered by ALJ Tommye Mangus. [Tr. 61');">1] ALJ Mangus found that Napier had severe impairments of depression, anxiety, a history of polysubstance disorder, and mild lumbar spine degenerative changes. [Tr. 66] The ALJ concluded that Napier had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium work with some exceptions. [Tr. 72-73] ALJ Hall noted in her current decision that she was bound by ALJ Mangus' prior decision. [Tr. 1');">17]

         Napier was admitted to Harlan ARH Hospital for suicidal ideations on April 20, 201');">15. [Tr. 541');">1] He was then transferred to Harlan Psychiatric Center. [Tr. 543] Napier met with Dr. Syed M. Raza and advised that he hears voices telling him to kill himself and that he has been having panic attacks. [Tr. 546] He rated his depression as a 7 out of 1');">10, his pain as a 9 out of 1');">10, and anxiety as a 8 out of 1');">10. [Tr. 546] Dr. Raza noted that Napier had a previous suicide attempt in 2009, and he had been noncompliant with his care. [Tr. 547] He was discharged on April 27, 201');">15. [Tr. 550]

         Napier was treated at Elite Health Care for back, neck, and hip pain in November and December 201');">15. [Tr. 597] He had been treated at this location for eight years but stopped in 201');">13 due to the cost associated with his care and traveling to Tennessee. [Tr. 26] Lauren Moss, APRN-C, reviewed his previous MRI from March 7, 201');">13, which revealed a broad-based central disc protrusion, mild stenosis, and a minor posterior disc bulge. [Tr. 597] Napier received pain medication, including Neurontin and Percocet, to treat his ailments. [Tr. 597]

         Ed Ross, Ph.D., reviewed Napier's file on May 1');">13, 201');">16. [Tr. 1');">100] Dr. Ross found that Napier's spine disorders were non-severe, but he had a severe affective disorder and a severe substance addiction. [Tr. 99] Ross opined that Napier's ability to remember locations and work-like procedures, ability to understand and remember very short simple instructions, ability to maintain attention and concentration for extended periods, ability to sustain an ordinary routine, and ability to make simple-work related were not significantly limited by his impairments. [Tr. 1');">101');">1-02]

         Dr. Ross also explained that Napier's ability to perform activities within a schedule, maintain regular attendance, and be punctual within customary tolerances, and his ability to complete a normal workday without interruptions from psychologically based symptoms and to perform at a consistent pace were not significantly limited by his impairments. [Tr. 1');">102] Ross explained that Napier's ability to understand and remember detailed instructions was moderately limited by his impairments. [Tr. 1');">101');">1]

         Robert Culbertson, M.D., reviewed Napier's file in September 201');">16 and did not affirm the initial assessment conducted by Anna Duval, SDM. [Tr. 1');">11');">19-1');">121');">1] Dr. Duval initially reviewed Napier's file and concluded that he had the physical RFC to do heavy/very heavy work. [Tr. 1');">104] But Dr. Culbertson found that Napier could occasionally lift or carry 50 pounds and frequently carry or lift 25 pounds. [Tr. 1');">120] He explained that Napier could sit or stand with normal breaks for about 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. [Tr. 1');">120] Dr. Culbertson noted that Napier could frequently climb ramps/stairs, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. [Tr. 1');">120] And he could occasionally climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. [Tr. 1');">120] Dr. Culbertson concluded that Napier had the RFC to perform medium work. [Tr. 1');">120]

         Napier met with consultative examiner Leigh A. Ford, Ph.D., on May 9, 201');">16. [Tr. 627-29] At the time of this visit, his chief complaints were back pain, arthritis, kidney disease, and depression. [Tr. 627] Napier told Dr. Ford that he has been receiving treatment for depression and that he had been hospitalized once following a suicide attempt. [Tr. 628] Napier also acknowledged that he takes pain medication and was previously addicted to opioids, but stated had not abused drugs since completing a rehabilitation program through drug court in 201');">10. [Tr. 628] Dr. Ford observed that Napier's motor activity was somewhat restless but that his memory capacity appeared normal. [Tr. 628] She also found that Napier's attention and concentration appeared to be somewhat variable and his fund of knowledge appeared to be average. [Tr. 628] Ford further noted Napier's mood appeared flat and affect appeared pessimistic and depressed. [Tr. 628]

         Dr. Ford concluded that Napier suffered from major depressive disorder, with psychotic features and an unspecified opioid-related disorder that was in remission. [Tr. 629] Ford found, however, that Napier's ability to understand, remember, and carry out instructions toward performance of simple repetitive tasks was not affected by his impairments. [Tr. 629] She explained that Napier's ability to sustain attention and concentration is slightly limited by his impairments. [Tr. 629] She further noted that Napier had moderate to marked limitations in his ability to tolerate the stress and pressure of day-to-day ...

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