United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
OPINION AND ORDER
PAUL R. CHERRY, Magistrate Judge.
This matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by Plaintiff Noemi Rodriguez on December 16, 2013, and Plaintiff's Brief in Support of her Motion to Reverse the Decision of the Commissioner of Social Security [DE 13], filed on May 2, 2014. This matter became fully briefed on August 22, 2014. Plaintiff challenges the Social Security Administration's determination that she is not disabled under the Social Security Act.
The Court forgoes a detailed recitation of Plaintiff's medical background. Those looking for a discussion of her medical records are directed to the summaries attached to both Plaintiff's opening brief and to the Commissioner's response. Rather than reiterating those summaries, the Court gives a brief overview of Plaintiff's medical issues and how the proceedings have unfolded thus far.
While Plaintiff suffers from many ailments, only her psychological difficulties are at issue on this appeal. Plaintiff suffers from a number of mental health problems related to bipolar disorder, for which she has been prescribed medications and has received both inpatient and outpatient treatment.
She began her quest for disability benefits in 2010 when she filed an application for disability insurance benefits and a separate application for supplemental security income. Both applications alleged that she'd been disabled since October 15, 2010. Both were denied initially and upon reconsideration. She then sought a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which took place on July 6, 2012. On July 26, 2012, the ALJ issued a written decision denying Plaintiff's claims for disability benefits, making the following findings.
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2014.
2. Although the claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity after October 15, 2010, her alleged onset date, that work activity was an unsuccessful work attempt.
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus-type II, status post appendectomy, obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), hypertension, and bipolar disorder.
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.
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), with some additional limitations. More specifically, she is able to lift and carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, stand or walk for a total of six hours in an eight-hour workday, and sit for a total of six hours in an eight-hour workday. She is limited to no more than occasional balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling, and climbing of ramps or stairs; she can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; and she must avoid concentrated exposure to unprotected heights, slick and uneven terrain, and pulmonary irritants such as dust, fumes, odors, and gases. She is further limited to performing simple, routine, and repetitive tasks, and she can maintain no more than occasional contact with coworkers, supervisors, and the public.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work.
7. The claimant was born in 1961and was 49 years old, which is defined as an individual closely approaching advanced age, on the alleged disability onset date.
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English.
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.
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.
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from October 15, 2010, ...