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Hearn v. Berryhill

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

September 14, 2017

RANDALL ALLAN HEARN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          PAUL R. CHERRY MAGISTRATE JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         This matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by Plaintiff Randall Allan Hearn on July 5, 2016, and Plaintiff's Opening Brief [DE 16], filed by Plaintiff on December 9, 2016. Plaintiff requests that the September 26, 2014 decision of the Administrative Law Judge denying his claim for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income be reversed and remanded for further proceedings. On March 23, 2017, the Commissioner filed a response, and Plaintiff filed a reply on April 5, 2017. For the following reasons, the Court grants Plaintiff's request for remand.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In January 2013, Plaintiff filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income, alleging disability since June 23, 2012. The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. On June 18, 2014, Administrative Law Judge Kim L. Bright (“ALJ”) held a hearing. In attendance at the hearing were Plaintiff and Plaintiff's attorney. An impartial vocational expert appeared telephonically. The vocational expert was disconnected from the hearing before he testified. Interrogatories were sent to the expert following the hearing. On September 26, 2014, the ALJ issued a written decision denying benefits, making the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2017.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 23, 2012, the alleged onset date.
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: cervical degenerative disc disease and degenerative joint disease of the right shoulder.
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. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) Except he may frequently climb ramps and stairs, balance, stop, crouch, or crawl. He may occasionally climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. He may frequently reach in front or laterally, and occasionally reach overhead with his bilateral upper extremities.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work.
7. The claimant was born [in 1962] and was 50 years old, which is defined as an individual closely approaching advanced age, on the alleged disability onset date.
8. The claimant has a limited 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, as defined in the Social Security Act, from June 23, 2012, through the date of this decision.

(AR 17-25).

         The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, leaving the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481. Plaintiff filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for review of the Agency's 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).

         STANDARD ...


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