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Griffin v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

January 15, 2015

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.


JOHN E. MARTIN, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by Plaintiff Kimberly S. Griffin on November 13, 2013, and Plaintiff's Brief in Support of Reversing the Decision of the Commissioner of Social Security [DE 27], filed by Plaintiff July 31, 2014. Plaintiff requests that the decision of the Appeals Council be reversed and remanded for further proceedings. On November 13, 2014, the Commissioner filed a response, and on November 26, 2014, Plaintiff filed a reply. For the following reasons, the Court grants Plaintiff's request for remand.


On November 17, 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") with the U.S. Social Security Administration ("SSA") alleging that she became disabled on September 1, 2010. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. On June 1, 2012, Plaintiff appeared with her attorney and testified at a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"); a vocational expert also testified. ALJ Jonathan Stanley denied benefits on June 20, 2012. The Appeals Council accepted review and denied benefits on October 15, 2013, making the Appeals Council's decision the final Agency decision.

The Appeals Council made the following findings under the required five-step analysis and adopted the ALJ's findings and conclusions regarding whether Griffin is disabled:

1. The claimant met the special earnings requirements of the Act on September 1, 2010, the date the claimant stated she became unable to work and met them through June 30, 2012. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 1, 2010.
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: obesity, fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease to cervical and lumbar spine, chronic bronchitis, but does not have an impairment or combination of impairments which is listed in, or which is medically equal to an impairment listed in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P. Appendix 1.
3. The claimant's combination of impairments results in the residual functional capacity to perform a reduced range of the sedentary exertional level.
4. The claimant's subjective complaints are not fully credible.
5. The claimant is unable to perform past relevant work as cook helper, packaging line attendant, or deli cutter slicer because the demands of those jobs exceed her residual functional capacity.
6. The claimant was 48 years old on her date last insured, which is defined as younger individual and has a high school education. The claimant's past relevant work is semiskilled or skilled. The issue of transferability of work skills is not material in view of the claimant's age and residual functional capacity.
7. If the claimant had the capacity to perform the full range of sedentary exertional level, 20 CFR 404.1569 and Rule 201.21, Table No. 1 of 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2, would direct a conclusion of not disabled. Although the claimant's exertional and nonexertional impairments do not allow her to perform the full range of the sedentary exertional level, there are a significant number of jobs in the national economy which she could perform, such as ampule sealer, document preparer and telephone quote clerk.
8. The claimant is not disabled as defined in the Social Security Act at any time through June 30, 2012, the claimant's date last insured.

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).


A. Background

Plaintiff was 48 years old on the date when her insured status expired on June 30, 2012. She had a high school education; prior to the onset of her alleged disability, she worked as a cook's helper, packaging line attendant, and deli cutter/slicer.

B. Medical and Mental Health Evidence

Plaintiff suffers from obesity, fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease, bi-polar disorder, depression, migraine headaches, and chronic pain syndrome. In April 2011, Dr. John Kelly, Plaintiff's treating physician, completed a "Fibromyalgia Residual Function Capacity Questionnaire" finding she met the criteria for fibromyalgia. The questionnaire filled out by Dr. Kelly also listed nineteen "moderate" limitations that would continue after treatment and stated she was not capable of even a low stress job. In May 2011, Dr. Kelly filled out a nearly identical questionnaire, in which he also opined that Plaintiff was incapable of even low stress jobs. In May 2012, Dr. Kelly wrote Plaintiff was limited to sitting in one spot for no more than about an hour at a time, for a total of about ...

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