United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
JENNIFER B. ALVAREZ, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
R. CHERRY MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by
Plaintiff Jennifer B. Alvarez on August 11, 2017, and
Plaintiff's Brief in Support of Reversing the Decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security [DE 18], filed by
Plaintiff on February 1, 2018. Plaintiff requests that the
September 14, 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 March 9,
2018, the Commissioner filed a response, and Plaintiff filed
a reply on March 28, 2018. For the following reasons, the
Court grants Plaintiff's request for remand.
2, 2014, and June 27, 2014, Plaintiff filed applications for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income, respectively, alleging disability beginning July 25,
2013. The applications were denied initially and on
reconsideration. On June 2, 2016, Administrative Law Judge
William D. Pierson (“ALJ”) held a hearing. In
attendance at the hearing were Plaintiff, Plaintiff's
attorney, and an impartial vocational expert. On September
14, 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, 2016.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since July 25, 2013, the alleged onset date.
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
degenerative changes in the knees; degenerative changes of
the cervical, thoracic, and lumber spine; obesity;
sensorineural hearing loss; hypertension; depression; anxiety
with insomnia; and chronic pain syndrome.
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,
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) with lifting, carrying,
pushing and pulling ten pounds frequently and occasionally.
The claimant can sit at least six hours in an eight-hour
workday and stand and/or walk two hours in an eight-hour
workday. As of late 2014, she required a cane to ambulate
prolonged distances. The claimant should not climb ropes,
ladders or scaffolds. The claimant can occasionally kneel,
crouch, and crawl. The claimant can occasionally balance. The
claimant can occasionally bend and stoop in addition to what
is required to sit. The claimant can occasionally use ramps
and stairs with rails, no more than one-two flights at a
time. Aside from such use of ramps and stairs on an
occasional basis, the claimant should not work upon uneven
surfaces. The claimant should avoid concentrated exposure to
wetness such as when working upon wet and slippery surfaces.
The claimant should avoid work within close proximity to open
and exposed heights and open and dangerous machinery such as
open flames and fast moving exposed blades. The claimant is
limited from concentrated exposure to excessive humidity and
cold such as when working outside or within a green house or
refrigerator. Due to limited hearing, the claimant should
avoid work within close proximity to very loud noises such as
a fire alarm more than occasionally. The claimant should not
work next to very loud heavy machinery. The claimant is
limited to superficial interaction with coworkers,
supervisors and the public, with superficial interaction
defined as occasional and casual contact not involving
prolonged conversation. Contact with supervisors still
involves necessary instruction but prolonged conversation is
not necessary for task completion. Due to more recent anxiety
and depression, the claimant is limited to work that involves
only simple, routine and repetitive tasks that can be learned
through short demonstration and up to thirty days on a
day-to-day and sustained full time eight-hour per day basis
or equivalent work schedule. The claimant can maintain the
concentration required to perform simple tasks. The claimant
can remember simple work like procedures. The claimant can
make simple work related decisions.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work.
7. The claimant was born [in 1979] and was 33 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 July 25, 2013, through ...