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Snipes v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

June 9, 2017

MAGALEEN SNIPES, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner of the Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S BRIEF IN SUPPORT OF APPEAL

          Tim A. Baker United States Magistrate Judge.

         I. Introduction

         The parties appeared by counsel on April 12, 2017, for an oral argument on Plaintiff Magaleen Snipes' brief in support of appeal. It is undisputed that Snipes is disabled; she was awarded partial benefits. The issue is whether the Administrative Law Judge erred in his conclusion that Snipes was not disabled before April 22, 2014. After taking the case under advisement, the Court finds the ALJ erred. Snipes' brief in support of appeal [Filing No. 15] is granted, and the Commissioner's decision is reversed and remanded.

         II. Background

         Snipes applied for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on March 8, 2011, alleging disability beginning on May 13, 2009. Snipes' claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. On May 17, 2012, Snipes, represented by an attorney, appeared and testified at a hearing before an ALJ. Snipes returned for another hearing before the ALJ on November 6, 2012. On November 28, 2012, the ALJ issued his decision that Snipes is not disabled. The Appeals Council denied Snipes' request for review, and she sought judicial review.

         At the District Court, the Commissioner stipulated to a joint remand. On March 24, 2015, the Appeals Council issued a remand order and Snipes appeared for another hearing before the ALJ on January 6, 2016. The ALJ issued a partially favorable decision on March 23, 2016, finding Snipes became disabled on April 22, 2014.

         At step one, the ALJ found Snipes has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. At step two, the ALJ found Snipes' severe impairment is degenerative disc disease. At step three, the ALJ found Snipes' impairment does not meet or medically equal a listing. At step four, the ALJ found that prior to April 22, 2014, Snipes had the Residual Functional Capacity to perform light work, except

she could stand and walk for a total of six of eight hours and sit for six of eight hours provided she had the option to alternate to a sitting or standing position for one to two minutes each hour. She could not climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds. She could occasionally climb stairs or ramps. She could not kneel or crawl. She should avoid work at unprotected heights, working around dangerous moving machinery, operating a motor vehicle, or working around open flames or large bodies of water.

[Filing No. 17-8, at ECF p. 12.] However, the ALJ found that after April 22, 2014, Snipes only had the RFC to perform sedentary work, with

the option to alternate to a sitting or standing position for one to two minutes each hour. She cannot climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds. She can occasionally climb stairs or ramps. She cannot kneel or crawl. She should avoid work at unprotected heights, working around dangerous moving machinery, operating a motor vehicle, or working around open flames or large bodies of water.

         [Filing No. 17-8, at ECF p. 17.]

         At step five, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a vocational expert to find that prior to April 22, 2014, Snipes was capable of performing her past work as a hairstylist, as well as the work of a cashier, mail clerk, or merchandise marker. However, beginning on April 22, 2014, Snipes' RFC prevented her from being able to perform her past work or any other jobs in the national economy. As a result, Snipes was awarded SSI beginning April 22, 2014, but was denied DIB because her date last insured was March 31, 2013. This appeal followed.

         III. Legal standard

         The Court must uphold the ALJ's decision if substantial evidence supports his findings. Terry v. Astrue, 580 F.3d 471, 475 (7th Cir. 2009). The ALJ is obligated to consider all relevant medical evidence and cannot simply cherry-pick facts that support a finding of nondisability while ignoring evidence that points to a disability finding. Denton v. Astrue,596 F.3d 419, 425 (7th Cir. 2010). If evidence contradicts the ALJ's conclusions, the ALJ must confront that evidence and explain why it was rejected. Moore v. Colvin, 743 F.3d 1118, 1123 (7th Cir. 2014). The ALJ need not ...


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