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Mangual v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana

December 5, 2017

YASMIN MANGUAL, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE

         Plaintiff Yasmin Mangual seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“the Commissioner”) denying her application for disability insurance benefits and for supplemental security income. The Plaintiff argues that the Commissioner wrongfully denied her disability benefits and supplemental security income and erred by failing to (1) make a finding of fact as to the physical or mental requirements of her past relevant work, (2) adequately cite evidence supporting the denial of benefits, (3) consider all of the Plaintiff's impairments in combination when determining the Plaintiff's RFC, and (4) properly evaluate the Plaintiff's symptoms of pain.

         BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         On September 18, 2013, the Plaintiff filed her Title II application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits. (R. 19.) She also filed a Title XVI application for supplemental security income on February 21, 2014. (Id.) In both applications, she alleged disability beginning on August 16, 2013. (Id.) Her claims were denied initially on December 9, 2013, and upon reconsideration on March 6, 2014. (Id.) On May 12, 2015, the Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified at a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). (Id.) Edward Pagella, a vocational expert, also appeared and testified at the hearing. (Id.) On August 28, 2015, the ALJ denied the Plaintiff's application, finding she was not disabled. (R. 19-30.) On July 30, 2016, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied the Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision. (R. 1-4.)

         On September 28, 2016, the Plaintiff filed this claim [ECF No. 1] in federal court against the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration.

         THE ALJ'S FINDINGS

         Disability is defined as the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). To be found disabled, a claimant must demonstrate that her physical or mental limitations prevent her from doing not only her previous work, but also any other kind of gainful employment that exists in the national economy, considering her age, education, and work experience. § 423(d)(2)(A).

         An ALJ conducts a five-step inquiry in deciding whether to grant or deny benefits. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. The first step is to determine whether the claimant no longer engages in substantial gainful activity (SGA). Id. In the case at hand, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff has not engaged in SGA since her alleged onset date, August 16, 2013. (R. 21.)

         In step two, the ALJ determines whether the claimant has a severe impairment limiting her ability to do basic work activities under § 404.1520(c). In this case, the ALJ determined that the Plaintiff had multiple severe impairments, including obesity, lumbar spinal stenosis/osteoarthritis, degenerative changes of the hips, and right carpal tunnel syndrome. (Id.) The ALJ found that these impairments caused more than minimal limitations in the Plaintiff's ability to perform the basic mental and physical demands of work and had lasted for at least twelve months as required under the statute. (Id.) The ALJ also found that the Plaintiff had other, non-severe impairments, including sleep apnea, anxiety, and depression. (R. 22-23)

         Step three requires the ALJ to “consider the medical severity of [the] impairment” to determine whether the impairment “meets or equals one of the [the] listings in appendix 1 . . . .” § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). If a claimant's impairment(s), considered singly or in combination with other impairments, rise to this level, there is a presumption of disability “without considering [the claimant's] age, education, and work experience.” § 404.1520(d). But, if the impairment(s), either singly or in combination, fall short, the ALJ must proceed to step four and examine the claimant's “residual functional capacity” (RFC)-the types of things she can still do, despite her limitations-to determine whether she can perform “past relevant work, ” § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), or whether the claimant can “make an adjustment to other work” given the claimant's “age, education, and work experience.” § 404.1520(a)(4)(v).

         The ALJ determined that the Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal any of the listings in Appendix 1 and that she had the RFC to perform sedentary work, as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a), except:

[T]he claimant should never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds and can no more than occasionally climb ramps/stairs, balance, stoop, crouch, crawl, kneel, bend, and twist. The claimant could use the right hand no more than frequently to handle, finger, and feel and should be allowed to stand for 1-2 minutes after sitting 45 minutes. The ...

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