United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Western Division
DARRYL D. JORDAN, JR. PLAINTIFF
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION DEFENDANT
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER.
KEITH BALL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
cause is before the Court regarding the appeal by Darryl D.
Jordan, Jr., of the Commissioner of Social Security's
final decision affirming his Notice of Disability Cessation,
which ended Jordan's period of disability and Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). In rendering this
Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court has carefully
reviewed the Administrative Record  regarding Jordan's
claims (including the administrative decision, the medical
records, and a transcript of the hearing before the
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ")), Plaintiff's
Brief , and Defendant's Brief . The parties have
consented to proceed before the undersigned United States
Magistrate Judge, and the District Judge has entered an Order
of Reference . 28 U.S.C. § 636(c); Fed.R.Civ.P. 73.
reasons discussed in this Memorandum Opinion and Order, the
undersigned finds that the Commissioner's decision should
proceeding is the appeal of the Social Security
Administration's (“SSA”) determination that
Jordan was no longer “disabled” as of December
31, 2013.  at 277-279. Jordan, who was born on March 8, 1967,
had been receiving disability insurance benefits since the
SSA's October 23, 2008, partially favorable decision
found him disabled as of August 1, 2006. Id. at 271,
first filed an application for a period of disability and
disability benefits on June 28, 2005, alleging that he had
been disabled since May 11, 2003.  at 10. After initial
and reconsideration denials, the SSA issued, on October 23,
2008, a partially favorable decision concluding that Jordan
had the severe impairments of diabetes, depressive disorder,
pain disorder, and obesity. Id. at 262. In addition,
the ALJ found that he had the severe impairment of
“status post surgery on both arms” resulting from
a May 2003 industrial accident that occurred while he was
working as a boilermaker. Id. Specifically, Jordan
fell while working and suffered radial head fractures in both
elbows and a left proximal ulnar fracture, requiring surgery
and months of follow-up care. Id. at 262, 266-267,
399. By June 2005, his fractures appeared to be healed, but
there were some early degenerative changes. Id. at
12. Considering the evidence, the ALJ concluded that as of
August 1, 2006, Jordan had a residual functional capacity for
“less than the full range of even sedentary work as
defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) due to a lack of ability to
maintain concentration, persistence and pace or interact with
others which results in an inability to meet the mental
demands of any full-time work.” Id. at 269.
Thus, the ALJ found Jordan to be disabled and awarded
benefits beginning August 1, 2006. Id. at 273.
December 26, 2013, after conducting a continuing disability
review, the SSA issued a Notice of Disability Cessation
finding that Jordan's health had improved. Id.
at 277. The Notice relayed that Jordan's disability would
end as of December 31, 2013, and informed him that benefits
would be terminated the last day of February 2014.
Id. at 277. A Disability Hearing Officer upheld the
decision on reconsideration. Id. at 275-276;
292-302. Jordan requested a hearing before an ALJ, and, after
a hearing, the ALJ issued a decision on July 2, 2015,
affirming the cessation of benefits. Id. at 10-22.
The Appeals Council denied his request for review on March
23, 2016, id. at 1, and this appeal followed.
Court has determined that a detailed recitation of the
medical records is not necessary because the parties
summarized Jordan's records in their briefs, and the ALJs
have provided thorough summaries in their decisions.
Nevertheless, a review of the observations and evaluations of
certain examiners will aid in the consideration of this case.
most recent records consist of medical treatment notes from
2013 to 2014 and a consultative mental status evaluation from
November 2013. Id. at 399-403, 423-501. Beginning in
July 2013, Jordan sought treatment from Dr. Blaine Britt of
the Britt Medical Group, Brookhaven, Mississippi.
Id. at 423-501. Dr. Britt assessed that Jordan had
type II diabetes, essential benign hypertension, mixed
hyperlipidemia, unspecified backache, and panic disorder
without agoraphobia. Id. at 444. At that time, the
doctor noted that Jordan was six feet, one inch tall, and
weighed two hundred fifty-seven pounds. Id. at 443.
Dr. Britt prescribed a variety of medications to treat these
conditions: pioglitazone, metformin, Lisinopril, Crestor,
Lorcet, and Xanax. Id. at 444. Dr. Britt examined
Jordan on eight occasions between July 2, 2013, and May 16,
2014. Id. at 426, 430, 434, 438, 442, 459, 463, and
January 21, 2014, Dr. Britt completed a disability report
form and concluded that the following systems were normal:
eyes, ears, nose, and throat; lungs; heart; vascular;
abdomen; genitourinary; neurological; and
psychological/psychiatric. Id. at 423. Dr. Britt
noted that Jordan's musculoskeletal system was abnormal.
Id. Dr. Britt remarked that “[d]iabetes,
cholesterol, [and] anxiety are all treated [with] medication.
As long as [patient] is taking his meds, he should have no
trouble [with] any of these. In regards to his back pain, he
is treated [with] pain medication and we did make a
neurosurgery referral.” Id.
February 7, 2014, Dr. Britt ordered MRIs of Jordan's
right shoulder and lumbar spine. Id. at 483-485. The
MRI of Jordan's right shoulder revealed a “partial
tear of the supraspinatus tendon with intrasubstance fraying
at the level of the conjoined tendon, ” a partial tear
of the subscapularis tendon, and “[l]abral degeneration
and tear of the anterior labrum and anterior superior
labrum.” Id. at 483. The MRI of his lumbar
spine showed “[c]hanges of osteoarthritis with mild
disc disease at ¶ 4-L5 and L5-S1.” Id. at
in May 2014, Dr. Britt authored a letter that stated that
Jordan “is a patient of mine being treated for
diabetes, high cholesterol, anxiety with panic attacks,
hypertension, and chronic back and shoulder pain[.] His
chronic back pain and his anxiety disorder prevent him from
maintaining a full time job[.]” Id. at 458.
November 26, 2013, Randy S. Burke, Ph.D., conducted a
comprehensive mental status evaluation of Jordan at the
request of the Office of Disability Determination Services.
Id. at 399-403. Dr. Burke observed that Jordan's
“posture was straight and his gait was slow but
otherwise within normal limits.” Id. at 399.
He noted that there was no evidence of involuntary movements
or invalidism, and that Jordan was very cooperative.
Id. Dr. Burke concluded that Jordan “meets the
diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder, as well as
an anxiety disorder not otherwise specified. The
claimant's mood and anxiety symptoms are likely to have
at least some negative impact on his ability to function in
normal work settings and interact with coworkers.”
Id. at 402. Burke further encouraged Jordan
“to consider working with a mental health provider as
he or she might be able to identify strategies to alleviate
some of the claimant's mood, anxiety and pain
symptoms.” Id. Burke concluded that
Jordan's “symptoms are likely to persist for the
next 12 months” and that Jordan “is considered to
have adequate capacity to independently manage any funds he
may receive.” Id.
HEARING AND DECISION
July 2, 2015, decision, the ALJ evaluated Jordan's
conditions using an eight-step evaluation process employed by
the SSA to determine if a claimant continues to be disabled,
as set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1594(f). The ALJ observed
that through December 31, 2013, Jordan had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity. Id. at 13. He
evaluated the medical evidence and found that Jordan had
medically determinable impairments of effects of left arm
surgery, effects of right shoulder partial tear, diabetes,
hypertension, osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine, obesity,
major depressive disorder, and anxiety disorder. Id.
After comparing the medical and mental health evidence to the
criteria of the Listings for certain fractures (§ 1.07),
obesity (SSA Ruling 02-1p), and depression and anxiety
(§§ 12.04 and 12.06), the ALJ concluded that
Jordan's impairments did not meet or medically equal the
severity of the Listings. Id. at 14. Rather, the ALJ
determined that the medical evidence supported a finding that
there had been a decrease in medical severity, or, in simpler
terms, that Jordan had shown medical improvement since the
2008 decision finding him disabled. Id. at
determining that Jordan had shown medical improvement, the
ALJ pointed out that the medical record demonstrated that
Jordan's gait and station were normal, and that he had
normal movement in all extremities, even though he complained
of pain. Id. Jordan reported that he could
independently eat and bathe, drive and go to the store,
although he also reported that he could not walk, bend his
elbows, and had difficulty putting on clothes. Id.
With regard to his mental abilities, Jordan reported that his
medication helped him with his mood, and a consultative
examiner found he could pay bills, manage money, and that his
mental abilities were mostly intact. Id.
observed that Jordan reported that his pain medication
provided some relief from pain, and that his antidepressant
helped his mood. Id. at 19. The ALJ stated that
although Jordan denied being able to do housework or hobbies,
he socialized some with friends and family, went to casinos,
managed to fish, and could drive, go shopping, and pay bills.
Id. The ALJ also noted that Jordan was driving a
family tractor when he was involved in a collision, which
suggested “that he may take greater part in the work of
his family farm than just watching.” Id.
on the medical records, the ALJ determined that Jordan's
physical and mental condition had improved to the point where
he could perform light work with certain limitations.
Id. at 15. More specifically, the ALJ determined
that Jordan had the residual functional capacity to perform
light work, lift 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds
occasionally; sit, stand and walk for 6 hours each in an 8
hour work day; occasionally stoop and climb ramps, stairs,
ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; occasionally reach overhead
with bilateral upper extremities; must avoid concentrated
exposure to noise (with a noise intensity level no more than
three as per the Selected Characteristics of Occupations),
and hazards (including dangerous moving machinery and
unprotected heights); could perform simple, routine
repetitive tasks of unskilled work; maintain concentration
and attention for two-hour blocks; could interact frequently
with supervisors and co-workers and occasionally with the
general public; and low stress work (with no fast paced
production requirements, simple work-related decisions, with
few or no changes in the work setting). Id. at 16.
determined that Jordan is unable to perform his past relevant
work as a boilermaker, which was classified as heavy, skilled
work. Id. at 20. Because Jordan was born on March 8,
1967, he was considered a younger individual as of December
31, 2013. Id. The ALJ observed that Jordan had a
high school education. Id. Considering Jordan's
age, education, and the finding that he could perform light
work with certain limitations, the ALJ determined that Jordan
could perform a significant number of jobs in the national
economy. Id. After consulting with a vocational
expert, the ALJ concluded that Jordan could perform the
light, unskilled jobs of mail clerk, cleaner/housekeeper, and
house sitter. Thus, the ALJ concluded that Jordan's
disability ended as of December 31, 2013. Id. at 21.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court's review is limited to an inquiry into whether
there is substantial evidence to support the
Commissioner's findings, Richardson v. Perales,
402 U.S. 389, 390, 401 (1971), and whether the correct legal
standards were applied, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006).
Accord Falco v. Shalala, 27 F.3d 160, 163 (5th Cir.
1994); Villa v. Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, ...