United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. Rodovich United States Magistrate Judge
matter is before the court on petition for judicial review of
the decision of the Commissioner filed by the plaintiff, Dean
Owen Pittenger, on May 24, 2017. For the following reasons,
the decision of Commissioner is REMANDED.
plaintiff, Dean Owen Pittenger, filed an application for
Disability Insurance Benefits on November 18, 2013, alleging
a disability onset date of August 31, 2009. (Tr. 24). The
Disability Determination Bureau denied Pittenger's
application on February 21, 2014, and again upon
reconsideration on June 26, 2014. (Tr. 24). Pittenger
subsequently filed a timely request for a hearing on August
27, 2014. (Tr. 24). A video hearing was held on April 7,
2016, before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Shane McGovern,
and the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on May 4, 2016.
(Tr. 24-33). Vocational Expert (VE) Carrie E. Anderson
appeared and testified by telephone at the hearing. (Tr. 24).
The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-6).
also filed an application for Supplemental Security Income on
November 18, 2013. (Tr. 24). In an initial determination,
Pittenger was found disabled as of February 12, 2014. (Tr.
24). The ALJ concurred with the determination and concluded
that Pittenger is disabled under §1614(a)(3)(A) of the
Social Security Act as of February 12, 2014. (Tr. 24).
last met the insured status requirements of the Social
Security Act on September 30, 2013. (Tr. 26). On May 4, 2016,
the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision and made findings as
to each of the steps in the five-step sequential analysis.
(Tr. 24-33). At step one of the five-step sequential analysis
for determining whether an individual is disabled, the ALJ
found that Pittenger had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity during the period from his alleged onset date of
August 31, 2009 through his date last insured of September
30, 2013. (Tr. 26).
two, the ALJ determined that through the date last insured
Pittenger had the following severe impairments: hypertensive
cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity, lumbar spine
spurring, sleep apnea, and asthma. (Tr. 26). Pittenger
reported that he had four bleeding ulcers as of July of 2014,
but the impairment was diagnosed and treated after the date
last insured. (Tr. 26). At the hearing, Pittenger testified
to numerous other medical complaints including blindness in
his left eye; hearing loss; three herniated discs; arthritis
in his knee, hands, and hip; and severe neck problems. (Tr.
27). The ALJ indicated that the existence of a medically
determinable physical or mental impairment cannot be
established without objective medical abnormalities. (Tr.
27). The ALJ concluded that the above complaints were not
supported by objective medical evidence and therefore were
not medically determinable. (Tr. 27). After the date last
insured, Pittenger attended a mental status evaluation with
Irene M. Walters, Psy.D., on February 4, 2014. (Tr. 27). The
ALJ determined that there was no evidence of a mental
impairment prior to the date last insured and that after the
date last insured the evidence only established mild
limitations. (Tr. 27).
three, the ALJ concluded that Pittenger did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
(Tr. 27). The ALJ indicated that the medical evidence did not
document listing-level severity. (Tr. 27). Moreover, the ALJ
found that no acceptable medical source had mentioned
findings equivalent in severity to the criteria of any listed
impairment, individually or in combination, specifically
Listings 1.02, 3.02, 3.03, 3.10, and 4.04. (Tr. 28). The ALJ
also considered Pittenger's obesity in relation to the
musculoskeletal, respiratory, and cardiovascular body systems
listings, as required. (Tr. 28).
careful consideration of the entire record, the ALJ then
assessed Pittenger's residual functional capacity (RFC),
through the date last insured, as follows:
[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to lift
and/or carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds
frequently, stand and/or walk for about 4 hours of an 8 hour
workday, and sit for a total of about 6 hours in an 8 hour
workday. The claimant was able to occasionally climb ramps
and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl, but he
was unable to climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The
claimant needed to avoid concentrated exposure to extreme
cold, extreme heat, humidity, fumes, odors, dusts, gases, and
poor ventilation, and hazards.
(Tr. 28). The ALJ explained that in considering
Pittenger's symptoms he followed a two-step process. (Tr.
28). First, he determined whether there was an underlying
medically determinable physical or mental impairment that was
shown by a medically acceptable clinical or laboratory
diagnostic technique that reasonably could be expected to
produce Pittenger's pain or other symptoms. (Tr. 28).
Then, he evaluated the intensity, persistence, and limiting
effects of the symptoms to determine the extent to which they
limited Pittenger's functioning. (Tr. 28). The ALJ
determined that Pittenger's medically determinable
impairments reasonably could have been expected to cause some
of the alleged symptoms. (Tr. 29). However, Pittenger's
statements concerning the intensity, persistence, and
limiting effects of his symptoms were not entirely consistent
with the medical evidence and other evidence in the record.
four, the ALJ found that through the date last insured
Pittenger was unable to perform any past relevant work. (Tr.
31). Pittenger was born on February 12, 1964 and was 49 years
old, which was defined as a younger individual age 45-49 on
the date last insured. (Tr. 31). The ALJ considered whether
the instant matter justified applying the age-categories
non-mechanically, but he found that any additional vocational
adversities were fully considered by the medical-vocational
rules. (Tr. 31). The ALJ noted that Pittenger had at least a
high school education and was able to communicate in English.
(Tr. 31). The ALJ did not account for the transferability of
job skills to determine disability because the
medical-vocational rules supported a finding that the
Pittenger was not disabled. (Tr. 31).
Pittenger's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the
ALJ concluded that there were jobs in the national economy
that he could perform, including system surveillance monitor
(98, 600 jobs nationally), order clerk (109, 200 jobs
nationally), and sorter (102, 400 jobs nationally reduced by
20 percent). (Tr. 32). The ALJ found that Pittenger had not
been under a disability, ...