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Hernandez v. Colvin

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

August 29, 2016

ROSEMARIE HERNANDEZ, 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 Plaintiff on July 17, 2015, and Brief in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [DE 15], filed on November 9, 2015. Plaintiff requests that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge be reversed and remanded for further proceedings. On February 12, 2016, the Commissioner filed a response, and on March 1, 2016, Plaintiff filed a reply. For the following reasons, the Court grants Plaintiff's request for remand.

         I. Procedural Background

         On May 21, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for benefits alleging that he became disabled on December 19, 2011. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. On July 24, 2014, and January 13, 2015, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Romona Scales held hearings at which Plaintiff, with an attorney representative, a medical expert, and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. On February 27, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, leaving the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.

         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 30, 2016.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 19, 2011, the alleged onset date.
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus, an obese body habitus, mild thoracic degenerative changes, and the late effects of a benign meningioma removal.
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. The claimant has the residual functional capacity to lift 20 pounds occasionally, 10 pounds frequently, stand and/or walk for up to 4 hours in an 8-hour work period. The claimant can occasionally climb rams and stairs, but never ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The claimant can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and/or crawl; the claimant should never reach overhead with her left non-dominant upper extremity, and she is capable of frequent use of near and far visual acuity. The work cannot require fine or precise vision for small objects, but the claimant remains capable of seeing and handling medium to large objects, and she is able to avoid normal workplace hazards. The claimant must avoid concentrated exposure to environmental irritants such as fumes, odors, dust, gases, and areas of poor ventilation.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work.
7. The claimant was 47 years old, which is defined as a young individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date. The claimant subsequently changed age category to closely approaching age.
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 from December 19, 2011, through the date of the 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).

         II. Factual Background

         Plaintiff suffers from diabetes mellitus. In 2012, she had a meningioma removed from her brain, and has complained of blurred vision in her left eye and headaches since the surgery. She has carpal tunnel syndrome, reduced visual acuity, an adjustment disorder, acromioclavicular joint osteoarthritis, left ...


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