United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Central Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
MARK W. BENNETT, District Judge.
This case is before me on a Report and Recommendation (R&R) from Judge Leonard Strand, filed on January 2, 2014 (docket no. 15). In the R&R, Judge Strand recommends that I reverse and remand a decision by the Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner) denying plaintiff Charity Figgins (Figgins) disability benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq. Both the Commissioner and Figgins have timely filed objections to the R&R (docket nos. 16 and 17). For the reasons discussed below, I decline to adopt the recommendations in the R&R, and, instead, affirm the Commissioner's decision.
A. Procedural Background
Judge Strand summarized this case's procedural background:
[Figgins] protectively filed her applications for [benefits] on November 5, 2010. AR 11. The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. Id. Figgins then requested a hearing, which was conducted May 14, 2012, by Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) John Sandbothe. Id. Figgins testified during the hearing, as did her counselor and a vocational expert (VE). AR 30-59. The ALJ issued a decision denying Figgins's application on June 13, 2012. AR 11-21. On February 20, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Figgins's request for review. AR 1-3. As such, the ALJ's decision is the final decision of the Commissioner. AR 1; see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.
On April 16, 2013, Figgins commenced an action in [federal] court seeking review of the ALJ's decision.
(Docket no. 15, at 2). Judge Strand issued his R&R on January 2, 2014. I must now decide whether to adopt the recommendation in the R&R in light of the parties' objections.
B. ALJ's Determinations
Neither party objects to Judge Strand's summary of the ALJ's determinations in this case. I therefore adopt the summary from the R&R. The ALJ found:
(1) The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through June 30, 2013.
(2) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 5, 2010, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq. ).
(3) The claimant has the following severe impairments: hepatitis C, bipolar disorder, anxiety, obesity, borderline personality disorder, and history of substance abuse (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
(4) The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926).
(5) After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c), as she is able to lift or carry 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently but is limited to simple, routine, repetitive work with superficial contact with the public and no more than a regular pace.
(6) The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
(7) The claimant was born on November 21, 1984 and was 25 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).
(8) The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).
(9) Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is "not disabled, " whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 404.1569, 404.1569a, 416.969, and 416.969a).
(11) The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from November 5, 2010 through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).
(Docket no. 15, at 5-7); AR 13-21.
Judge Strand went on to analyze the ALJ's findings at each step in the ...