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Johnson v. Colvin

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

March 31, 2015

LINDA L. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
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 Linda L. Johnson on February 14, 2014, and Plaintiff’s Brief in Support of Reversing the Decision of the Commissioner of Social Security [DE 18], filed by Plaintiff on September 8, 2014. Plaintiff requests that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge be reversed and remanded for further proceedings. On December 15, 2014, the Commissioner filed a response, and on December 24, 2014, Plaintiff filed a reply. For the following reasons, the Court grants Plaintiff’s request for remand.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On November 5, 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and an application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) with the U.S. Social Security Administration (“SSA”) alleging that she became disabled on August 20, 2010. Plaintiff’s application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. On June 5, 2012, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Mario Silva held a hearing at which Plaintiff, with an attorney, and a Vocational Expert (“VE”) testified. On June 23, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding 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, 2015.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 20, 2010, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: rheumatoid arthritis, lumbar radiculopathy, tear of the left ankle tendon, headaches, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), fibromyalgia and obesity (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), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the ALJ found that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) as the claimant is able to lift 10 pounds frequently, sit stand and/or walk for six hours in an eight hour workday, except: the claimant is able to lift up to 15 pounds occasionally, is unable to climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds, unable to crawl, may occasionally climb stairs, balance, stoop and kneel, can frequently handle and occasionally finger with the right dominant hand and must avoid moderate exposure to pulmonary irritants such as dust, fumes and gasses and hazards such as unprotected heights and dangerous moving machinery. In addition, the claimant must work at a job that is free of production rate with no tandem tasks or teamwork where one production step is dependent upon a prior step.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was 50 years old, which is defined as an individual closely approaching advanced age, 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 transferable job skills (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)).

The ALJ’s decision became the Commissioner’s final decision when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review on December 19, 2013. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981.

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Plaintiff initiated this civil action for judicial review of the Commissioner’s final decision. 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).

FACTS

Plaintiff was 50 years old when she applied for DIB and SSI. Plaintiff suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, lumbar radiculopathy, tear of the left ankle tendon, headaches, COPD, fibromyalgia, obesity and anxiety. MRIs of Plaintiff’s lumbar spine showed disc bulges. Plaintiff also takes four Vicodin a day for her back pain and wears a prescribed back brace. Plaintiff received steroid injections for her back pain and she has received biological infusions for her arthritis. Plaintiff also had an injection for her left ankle and eventually had surgery on that ankle in August 2011. Plaintiff was diagnosed with anxiety and prescribed Xanax.

In November 2010, Plaintiff’s treating physician, Tarek Kudaimi, M.D., opined that she is limited to lifting ten to fifteen pounds. In June 2012, Dr. Kudaimi noted Plaintiff had inflammation in her bilateral hands, feet and ankles, and ...


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