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Stanika Jackson v. Commissioner of Social Security

October 18, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Christopher A. Boyko



This matter comes before the Court upon Plaintiff's Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, recommending that Defendant's decision be affirmed. For the reasons set forth below, the Court rejects the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation in part, and remands this case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


The procedural history and facts presented by the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation have not been objected to and will be used in part to establish the facts and circumstances pertaining to this case. (Doc. No. 26 at 1-12.)

On July 28, 2005, Plaintiff, Stanika Jackson ("Plaintiff"), applied for a period of Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 416(i), and for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 423 and 1381(a), alleging disability as of August 31, 2002. (Doc. No. 26 at 1.) Plaintiff was 26 years old at the alleged onset of disability. Id. at 2. She has a high school education and has past work experience as a barmaid and nurse's aide. Id.

Plaintiff first visited South Pointe Hospital on April 25, 2003. Id. at 3. Since that visit, Plaintiff has endured several medical complications and procedures. Id. at 3-12. Plaintiff has specifically suffered from a number of medical problems, including abdominal problems, hernias, complications from surgery, intestinal problems, and a buildup of scar tissue. Id.

Plaintiff's claim for DIB and SSI was denied initially on January 31, 2006, and upon reconsideration on November 16, 2006. Id. Plaintiff timely requested an administrative hearing on December 1, 2006. Id.

On April 24, 2007, Plaintiff submitted for the first time evidence of psychological impairments. Id. at 2. This evidence included records from South Pointe Hospital relating to a behavioral evaluation of Plaintiff on November 30, 2006, psychological progress notes from December 1, 2006 through March 1, 2007, and notes from a psychiatric therapy session on April 19, 2007. Id. Plaintiff later submitted notes from a second psychiatric therapy session held on February 12, 2008. Id.

Administrative Law Judge Stephen M. Hanekamp ("ALJ") held a hearing on June 17, 2008. Id. Plaintiff was represented by counsel at the hearing, and she testified on her own behalf. Id. Gene Burkhammer testified as a vocational expert ("VE"). Id. The ALJ did not solicit the testimony of a medical expert regarding Plaintiff's psychological limitations. Id.

Plaintiff testified that she lived with her two daughters, ages 15 and 10, in a three bedroom house. Id. at 12. Her daughters did the household chores, for the most part. Id. She said that she had difficulty being around other people and "just didn't really care to be bothered with anybody." Id. Plaintiff stayed in her room during the day because she did not want to be around other people, and she got rid of the couches in her house because she did not want to have company. Id. Her regular visitors consisted of her mother, her two brothers, and three friends. Id. Plaintiff further testified that she had suicidal thoughts and did not handle stress well, particularly family-related stress. Id. She also testified that her antidepressants helped a little. Id.

During the VE's testimony, the ALJ asked the VE to assume a younger individual with a high school education and Plaintiff's past work experience who could function at the light level, lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, stand and walk with normal breaks for six hours out of an eight-hour workday, and was limited to simple and repetitive tasks, no contact with the general public, and limited contact with fellow employees. Id. at 12-13. The ALJ then asked if such an individual would be able to perform Plaintiff's past work, and the VE opined that the individual could not. Id. at 13. When asked, the VE testified that such an individual could perform work in the national economy, including a housekeeping cleaner and production assembler. Id. According to the VE, such jobs would permit no more than two days' absence a month. Id. The VE added that if Plaintiff were unable to begin work before 8:00 p.m., the number of jobs would be reduced by half. Id. When the ALJ asked the VE to assume the same individual but limited to sedentary work and asked if there were any jobs in the national economy for such an individual, the VE said that there were. Id.

The ALJ issued a decision on October 15, 2008 in which he determined that Plaintiff is not disabled. Id. at 2. When the Appeals Counsel declined further review on July 29, 2009, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. Id.

On April 13, 2010, Plaintiff filed a petition for judicial review in district court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g). Id. at 2. The case was assigned to a Magistrate Judge who on July 20, 2011, filed her Report and Recommendation. (Doc. No. 26.) The Magistrate Judge recommended that the decision of the Commissioner be affirmed. Id. at 23. On August 5, 2011, ...

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