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Ruiz v. Berryhill

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

March 28, 2018

JOHN MARTIN RUIZ, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Andrew P. Rodovich United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter is before the court on petition for judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner filed by the plaintiff, John Martin Ruiz, Sr., on February 22, 2017. For the following reasons, the decision of the Commissioner is REMANDED.

         Background

         The plaintiff, John Martin Ruiz, Sr., filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits on September 15, 2011, alleging a disability onset date of July 24, 2011. (Tr. 893). The Disability Determination Bureau denied Ruiz's application initially and again on reconsideration. (Tr. 893). Ruiz subsequently filed a timely request for a hearing on June 24, 2012. (Tr. 893). A hearing was held on June 21, 2013, before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Henry Kramzyk, and the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on September 4, 2013. (Tr. 893). The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 893). Ruiz filed a Complaint in the United States District Court on April 25, 2014. (Tr. 893). Magistrate Judge John Martin remanded the ALJ's decision on September 17, 2015. (Tr. 893). The Appeals Council vacated the final decision of the Commissioner, and remanded the case to an ALJ for further proceedings consistent with the Order of the court. (Tr. 894). The ALJ, William E. Sampson, held a video hearing on September 27, 2016, and issued an unfavorable decision on October 25, 2016. (Tr. 893-910). Impartial Vocational Expert (VE), Clifford M. Brady, testified at the hearing. (Tr. 894).

         Ruiz filed a Title XVI application for Supplemental Security Income on January 17, 2014. (Tr. 893). In an initial determination, Ruiz was found disabled beginning January 17, 2014, based on his impairments equaling Listing 8.04. (Tr. 893). The Appeals Council reviewed the favorable determination and concluded that it was supported by substantial evidence, and affirmed the initial determination finding Ruiz disabled. (Tr. 894).

         The ALJ found that Ruiz met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act on March 31, 2012. (Tr. 896). At step one of the five step sequential analysis for determining whether an individual is disabled, the ALJ found that Ruiz had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period from his alleged onset date of July 24, 2011, through his date last insured of March 31, 2012. (Tr. 896). At step two, the ALJ determined that Ruiz had the following severe impairments: obesity, diabetes mellitus, meniscal tear and degenerative changes of the right knee status-post surgery, degenerative changes to the lumbar spine, diverticulitis of the colon, dysthymia, and obsessive compulsive disorder. (Tr. 896).

         At step three, the ALJ concluded that through the date last insured Ruiz did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments. (Tr. 897). Specifically, the ALJ determined that Ruiz's physical impairments or combination of impairments did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments, including but not limited to Listings 1.02, 1.04, and 5.06. (Tr. 897). The ALJ considered Ruiz's obesity in relation to the musculoskeletal, respiratory, and cardiovascular body systems listings. (Tr. 898). The ALJ concluded that based on the totality of evidence Ruiz did not meet or medically equal any of the listed impairments during the period at issue, but that his limitations warranted reductions to his residual functional capacity. (Tr. 898).

         The ALJ concluded that the severity of Ruiz's mental impairments, considered singly and in combination, did not meet or medically equal Listings 12.04 and 12.08. (Tr. 898). The ALJ considered the paragraph B criteria for mental impairments, which must result in at least two of the following:

marked restriction of activities of daily living; marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning; marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; or repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration.

(Tr. 898). The ALJ defined a marked limitation as more than moderate but less than extreme and repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration, as three episodes within one year or once every four months with each lasting for at least two weeks. (Tr. 898).

         The ALJ determined that Ruiz had mild restriction in daily living activities. (Tr. 899). Ruiz denied that he had any difficulty tending to his personal care. (Tr. 899). However, the ALJ noted that Ruiz's wife did most of the cooking and that Ruiz relied on his family for physical assistance. (Tr. 899). The ALJ indicated that any limitations affecting Ruiz's ability to engage in daily living activities were related to his physical complaints, rather than his mental limitations. (Tr. 899).

         Next, the ALJ concluded that Ruiz had moderate difficulties in social functioning. (Tr. 899). The ALJ noted that Ruiz indicated that he rarely left the comforts of his home and that if he did, it was with his wife or children. (Tr. 899).

         The ALJ found that Ruiz had moderate difficulties with concentration, persistence, or pace. (Tr. 899). Ruiz indicated that he watched television and that he performed chores around the house or helped others perform the chores. (Tr. 899). The ALJ indicated that Ruiz had not experienced any episodes of decompensation which had been of extended duration. (Tr. 899). Moreover, the ALJ determined that regarding Listing 12.04, Ruiz did not meet the criteria for paragraph C. (Tr. 899).

         The ALJ then assessed Ruiz's residual functional capacity (RFC) through the date last insured as follows:

The claimant has the residual functional capacity to lift and carry up to 10 pounds occasionally, lesser weights more frequently, stand and/or walk about 2 hours in an 8-hour workday, and sit about 6 hours in an 8-hour workday with normal breaks. The claimant was to never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, knelt, or crawled, but could have occasionally balanced, stooped, crouched, or climbed ramps and stairs. He was to avoid concentrated exposure to wet, slippery surfaces and hazards such as dangerous moving machinery and unprotected heights. From a mental perspective, the claimant was limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks, with only occasional interaction with ...

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