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Jeannette Williams-Crable v. Commissioner of Social

October 19, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge William H. Baughman, Jr.



This is an action for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying the application of the plaintiff, Jeannette Williams-Crable, for supplemental security income.*fn1 The Commissioner, in response, seeks affirmation of the denial of benefits.*fn2 The parties have consented to magistrate judge's jurisdiction,*fn3 briefed their respective positions,*fn4 and participated in a telephonic oral argument.*fn5

For the reasons that follow, the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits in this case will be reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings.


A. The ALJ's decision

The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), whose decision became the final decision of the Commissioner, found that Williams-Crable had severe impairments consisting of degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine status post lumbar laminectomy, herniated disc in the cervical spine, asthma, depressive disorder and borderline intellectual functioning.*fn6 The ALJ concluded from the record that Williams-Crable's impairments or combination of impairments did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments.*fn7 The ALJ then made the following finding regarding Williams-Crable's residual functional capacity:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(a) except she needs a sit/stand option at will, which means to change positions at any time. She needs noncomplex work, which means no bargaining, mediating, or arbitrating. The work should be simple, repetitive learned in a short period of time. It should not involve any written instructions, graphs, plans or details. The work should be low stress. Low stress is defined as low production quotas. Her interaction with the public should be minimalized. The same limitation does not apply to co-workers or supervisors.*fn8

The ALJ found that Williams-Crable had no past relevant work.*fn9 However, after applying the medical-vocational grids in Appendix 2 of the regulations, considering Williams-Crable's vocational profile and receiving the testimony of a vocational expert at the hearing, the ALJ determined that a significant number of jobs existed locally and nationally that Williams-Crable could perform.*fn10 The ALJ, therefore, found Williams-Crable not under a disability.*fn11

B. The parties' positions

Williams-Crable asks for reversal of the Commissioner's decision on several grounds.*fn12 Specifically, Williams-Crable argues that: (1) the ALJ's residual functional capacity (RFC) finding is not supported by substantial evidence because it failed to grant substantial weight to the opinion of her treating physician;*fn13 (2) the ALJ erred in discounting her claims of pain;*fn14 and (3) that the ALJ erred in not finding William-Crable disabled pursuant to the listing for mental retardation.*fn15 Accordingly, Williams-Crable seeks a reversal and/or a remand.*fn16

The Commissioner maintains that substantial evidence supports the decision to deny benefits. First, as to the mental retardation listing, the Commissioner contends that to meet the listing Williams-Crable must satisfy all the criteria for the listing.*fn17 In that regard, the Commissioner asserts that Williams-Crable not do so as regards: (a) showing that deficits in adaptive functioning initially manifested themselves during development,*fn18 and (b) establishing that she had a valid verbal, performance or full scale IQ of 60 through 70.*fn19

Next, as to the ALJ's RFC findings the Commissioner maintains that the ALJ correctly discounted the findings of Williams-Crable's treating physician, Dr. Kun Nam, because Dr. Nam's opinion was not supported by objective medical evidence.*fn20 Finally, the Commissioner contends that the ALJ properly found that Williams-Crable's allegations of disabling pain were not fully credible.*fn21 Thus, the ...

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