United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
CINDY S. CRULL, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
JOHN E. MARTIN, Magistrate Judge.
This matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by Plaintiff Cindy S. Crull on September 11, 2013, and a Plaintiff's Brief in Support of Reversing the Decision of the Commissioner of Social Security [DE 16], filed by Plaintiff on February 18, 2014. Plaintiff requests that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge be reversed and remanded for further proceedings. On May 28, 2014, the Commissioner filed a response, and on June 11, 2014, Plaintiff filed a reply. For the following reasons, the Court grants Plaintiff's request for remand.
On March 9, 2011, Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income ("SSI") with the U.S. Social Security Administration ("SSA") alleging that she became disabled on November 4, 2009. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. On August 7, 2012, Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Henry Kramzyk held a hearing at which Plaintiff, with a non-attorney representative, and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. On August 21, 2012, a supplemental hearing was held via telephone at which the non-attorney representative and the VE testified, but the claimaint did not. On September 14, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled.
The ALJ made the following findings under the required five-step analysis:
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 9, 2011, the application date. (20 CFR 416.971 et seq. ).
2. The claimant had the following severe impairments: obesity and degenerative changes in the lumbar spine with radiculopathy (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
3. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals any of the listed impairments in 20 CFR 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
4. The claimant has the residual functional capacity to lift and carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, stand and/or walk for about 6 hours of an 8 hour workday, and sit for about 6 hours of an 8 hour workday. She can never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds and can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, as well as balance, stoop, crouch, kneel, and crawl. She must avoid concentrated exposure to workplace hazards such as dangerous machinery and unprotected heights.
5. The claimant has no past relevant work (20 CFR 416.965).
6. The claimant was 50 years old, defined as an individual closely approaching advanced age on the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.963).
7. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 416.964).
8. Transferability of job skills is not an issue because the claimant does not have past relevant work (20 CFR 416.968).
9. 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 could perform (20 CFR 416.969 and 416.969(a)).
10. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since March 9, 2011, the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.920(g)).
On July 10, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review and on August 20, 2013, denied her request to reopen the decision, leaving the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
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 was treated by neurologist Steven Bayer beginning in 1999. He prescribed pain medication for Plaintiff's back and hip pain and psychotropic medication for anxiety and depression. On August 17, 2012, Dr. Bayer completed a functional assessment. It reported that Plaintiff had pain in her hip, thigh, leg, sciatic nerve, buttock, and tail bone, and numbness in her right foot, with weakness at her hip flexor, sensory loss in right right leg and an unsteady gait, as well as depression and anxiety. Dr. Bayer reported that Plaintiff would not be able to sit or stand more than twenty minutes before needing a break and could sit or stand/walk for less than two hours in a workday.
On April 19, 2011, consultative psychological examiner Irena M. Walters performed an examination of Plaintiff. The report concluded that Plaintiff had depressive disorder and anxiety disorder, had a fair fund of information, was able to recall two of three cities after seven minutes, and was inaccurate with serial 7s. In the "mental status examination" section, the report states that Plaintiff's "[g]ait/posture appeared normal."
On April 29, 2011, consultative examiner Dr. Kanayo Odeluga performed an examination. He reported that Plaintiff had right hip tenderness, a positive Patrick test indicating hip pain and dysfunction, a mildly antalgic gait, mild difficulty ...