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Lafollette v. Berryhill

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

August 10, 2018

DONNA LAFOLLETTE, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          PAUL R. CHERRY, MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by Plaintiff Donna Lafollette on July 27, 2017, and a Plaintiff's Opening Brief [DE 17], filed on January 11, 2018. Plaintiff requests that the April 14, 2016 decision of the Administrative Law Judge denying her claim for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income be reversed and remanded for further proceedings. On February 22, 2018, the Commissioner filed a response, and Plaintiff filed a reply on March 7, 2018. For the following reasons, the Court grants Plaintiff's request for remand.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On March 14, 2013, Plaintiff filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income, alleging disability beginning April 5, 2013. The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. Administrative Law Judge Daniel Balutis (“ALJ”) held a hearing. In attendance at the hearing were Plaintiff, Plaintiff's attorney, and an impartial vocational expert. On April 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, 2018.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 5, 2013, the alleged onset date.
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: cervical spine degenerative disc disease (DDD), status post cervical fusion; coronary artery disease; chronic pain disorder; generalized anxiety disorder and depressive disorder.
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, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b). Specifically, the claimant is able to lift up to 20 pounds occasionally and up to 10 pounds frequently, stand and/or walk for up to 6 hours in an 8-hour workday and sit up to 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. She would require to alternate positions every 30 minutes for 5 minutes and she is able to push and pull as much as she can lift and carry. She is never to climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds, but is able to occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. The claimant is further limited to frequent exposure to unprotected heights and moving mechanical parts. Mentally, the claimant would be able to understand, remember and carry out simple and routine tasks and that[sic] any time off task would be accommodated by her normal breaks.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work.
7. The claimant was born [in 1962] and was 50 years old, which is defined as an individual closely approaching advanced age, on the alleged disability onset date.
8. The claimant has a limited education and is able to communicate in English.
9. Transferability of job skills is not an issue in this case because the claimant's past relevant work is unskilled.
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 April 5, 2013, through the date of this decision.

(AR 12-22).

         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 this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         STANDARD ...


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