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Hawkins v. Colvin

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

March 31, 2015

DONNA M. HAWKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN E. MARTIN MAGISTRATE JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

This matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by Plaintiff Donna M. Hawkins on December 11, 2013, and a Plaintiff’s Brief in Support of Her Motion to Reverse the Decision of the Commissioner of Social Security [DE 16], filed by Plaintiff on July 17, 2014. Plaintiff requests that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge be reversed and remanded for further proceedings. On October 24, 2014, the Commissioner filed a response, and on November 5, 2014, Plaintiff filed a reply. For the following reasons, the Court grants Plaintiff’s request for remand.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On November 22, 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) with the U.S. Social Security Administration (“SSA”), and an application for disabled widow’s benefits. Plaintiff claimed disability beginning January 20, 2010. Plaintiff’s application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. On August 14, 2012, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Edward P. Studzinski held a hearing at which Plaintiff, with an attorney, Plaintiff’s friend, and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. On September 5, 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 met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2011.
2. The claimant is the unmarried widow of the deceased insured worker and had attained the age of 50, and meets the non-disability requirements for disabled worker’s benefits set forth in section 202(e) of the Social Security Act.
3. The prescribed period ends on November 30, 2015.
4. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 20, 2010, the amended onset date. (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq. and 416.971 et seq.).
5. The claimant had the following severe impairments: neuropathy, a possible rotator cuff injury, a history of leg clots, a history of hepatitis C, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a panic disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, and a history of polysubstance abuse (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
6. 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 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
7. The claimant has the residual functional capacity to lift and carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, with no limitations in sitting, standing, and/or walking throughout an 8 hour workday. The claimant can occasionally reach overhead with the bilateral extremities but should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold or unguarded hazardous machinery, as well as all exposure to driving and hazardous environments. The claimant is limited to work involving only simple, routine and repetitive tasks requiring no more than simple decision making with a choice among a limited number of anticipated options and not requiring creative solutions to novel situations and only occasional minor changes in the work setting in terms of workplace, work processes, and work product, and work in which the expectations remain relatively unchanged over the course of an average daily tour of duty. The claimant is further limited to work requiring no more than exercise of simple judgment, dealing more with things rather than people, concrete rather than the abstract, and work which involves no more than brief and superficial interaction with co-workers and supervisors as is common in unskilled work, and work which is not performed in extremely crowded or hectic environments.
8. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.2565 and 416.965).
9. The claimant was 48 years old, defined as an individual closely approaching advanced age, on the alleged disability onset day (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).
10. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).
11. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because the Medical-Vocational Rules support a finding that the claimant is not disabled (20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
12. 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 ...

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