United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
OPINION AND ORDER
JOHN E. MARTIN, Magistrate Judge.
This matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by Plaintiff Trudy Kane on April 17, 2013, and an Opening Brief of Plaintiff in Social Security Appeal Pursuant to L.R. 7.3 [DE 26], filed by Plaintiff on September 25, 2013. Plaintiff requests that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge denying benefits be reversed or remanded for further proceedings. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Plaintiff's request for remand.
On August 30, 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) with the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) alleging that she became disabled on July 14, 2010. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Following a hearing, Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Edward P. Studzinski concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. On March 27, 2012, the Appeals Council granted Plaintiff's request for review and remanded the case to the ALJ for a new hearing and new decision. On July 18, 2012, ALJ Studzinski held a hearing at which Plaintiff, with an attorney representative, and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. On September 22, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled. The ALJ made these findings under the required five-step analysis:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2015.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 14, 2010, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq. )
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and depression (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), 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. The claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a), with some additional limitations. She is able to sit or stand for six hours out of an eight hour workday so long as she is able to alternate positions. She is able to use her hands for both fine and gross manipulation frequently, but not constantly. She is unable to perform forceful grasping and torquing. She is liable to drop an object one to two times per work shift. She is able to perform only simple, routine, and repetitive tasks; she can perform only simple decision making (i.e., she can choose amongst a limited number of options but should not be expected to consistently come up with creative solutions to novel situations).
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 14, 1966, and was 43 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 45-49, 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 transferrable job skills. (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. 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, 404.1569(a), 416.969, and 416.969(a)).
On February 2, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, leaving the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. On April 3, 2013, Plaintiff filed a civil complaint with this Court.
The parties filed forms of consent to have this case assigned to a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all further proceedings and to order the entry of a final judgment in this case. Therefore, this Court has jurisdiction to decide this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Plaintiff suffers from degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and depression. On June 13, 2011, Plaintiff's family practitioner, Dr. Corse, filled out an RFC assessment that indicated Plaintiff did not have good use of her hands and that her fine and firm grasping was limited to "occasional." On February 20, 2012, Dr. Corse completed a report indicating that Plaintiff had several limitations substantial enough to impair her ability to engage in a useful occupation. In 2010, psychotherapist Dr. Oliver treated Plaintiff for depression and stress. On August 16, 2010, Dr. Oliver completed a form indicating that Plaintiff was unable to work at that time because she was suffering from severe depression. Dr. Oliver wrote a letter in support of ...