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Alvarez v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

July 31, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         This 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.


         On June 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, 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) 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 ...

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