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Caravajal v. Berryhill

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

May 14, 2018

FALEN E. CARAVAJAL, 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 Falen E. Caravajal on March 22, 2017, and Plaintiff's Brief in Support of Reversing the Decision of the Commissioner of Social Security [DE 17], filed by Plaintiff on August 29, 2017. Plaintiff requests that the August 10, 2016 decision of the Administrative Law Judge denying her claim for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income be reversed and remanded for an award of benefits or for further proceedings. On October 10, 2017, the Commissioner filed a response, and Plaintiff filed a reply on October 27, 2017. For the following reasons, the Court grants Plaintiff's request for remand.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On December 2, 2013, and May 27, 2014, Plaintiff filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income, respectively, alleging disability beginning October 25, 2013. The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. On July 18, 2016, Administrative Law Judge William Spalo (“ALJ”) held a hearing. In attendance at the hearing were Plaintiff, Plaintiff's attorney Sean Kelley, and an impartial vocational expert. On August 10, 2016, 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, 2019.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 25, 2013, the alleged onset date.
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine and obesity.
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 sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except no climbing of ladders, ropes or scaffolds; occasional climbing of ramps and stairs; occasional balancing, kneeling, stooping, crouching and crawling; and avoid concentrated exposure to dangerous machinery, uneven slippery surfaces and unprotected heights.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work.
7. The claimant was born [in 1981] and was 32 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44 on the alleged disability onset date.
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, as defined in the Social Security Act, from October 25, 2013, through the date of this decision.

(AR 22-28).

         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) and 1383(c) 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 ...


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