United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
PAUL WARTAK JR., on behalf of PAUL A. WARTAK, deceased, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Social Security Administration, Defendant.
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, Paul
Wartak Jr., on behalf of Paul A. Wartak, deceased, on May 4,
2017. For the following reasons, the decision of the
Commissioner is REMANDED.
plaintiff, Paul A. Wartak, filed applications for Disability
Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on
October 27, 2011, alleging a disability onset date of January
1, 2010. (Tr. 10). The Disability Determination Bureau denied
Wartak's applications on December 20, 2011, and again
upon reconsideration on May 30, 2012. (Tr. 10). Wartak
subsequently filed a timely request for a hearing on June 28,
2012. (Tr. 10). A video hearing was held on August 9, 2013,
before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Henry Kramzyk, and the
ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on September 13, 2013.
(Tr. 10-22). Vocational Expert (VE) Thomas A. Gusloff
testified at the hearing. (Tr. 10). The Appeals Council
denied review, making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-4). Wartak appealed to
this court, and this court remanded the matter on March 8,
2016. (Tr. 558-87).
September 20, 2016, a hearing was held before ALJ Romona
Scales, and the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on January
4, 2017. (Tr. 461-73). VE Clifford M. Brady appeared at the
hearing. The ALJ determined that Wartak was not under a
disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from
January 1, 2010 through the date of the decision, January 4,
2017, thereby rendering it the Agency's final decision
for judicial review. (Tr. 473). On February 16, 2018, Wartak
filed a stipulation of partial dismissal. The court has
dismissed Wartak's claim under 42 U.S.C. §
1383(c)(3) for review of the Commissioner's final
decision denying Wartak's application for Supplemental
Security Income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act.
met the insured status requirements of the Social Security
Act through September 30, 2014. (Tr. 463). On January 4,
2017, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision and made
findings as to each of the steps in the five-step sequential
analysis. (Tr. 461-73). At step one of the five-step
sequential analysis for determining whether an individual is
disabled, the ALJ found that Wartak had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since January 1, 2010, the
alleged onset date. (Tr. 463).
two, the ALJ determined that Wartak had the following severe
impairments: left eye blindness, hypertension, diabetes,
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), obesity,
schizoid personality disorder, major depressive disorder, and
anxiety. (Tr. 463). The ALJ indicated that she considered all
the medically determinable impairments, in combination, when
assessing Wartak's residual functional capacity and when
determining if his impairments met or equaled a listed
impairment. (Tr. 463-64).
three, the ALJ concluded that Wartak 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. 464). The ALJ indicated that no treating physician or
examining physician indicated diagnostic findings that would
satisfy any listed impairment. (Tr. 464). Moreover, the ALJ
considered Wartak's obesity and diabetes in conjunction
with his other severe impairments and concluded that none of
the listings were met or medically equaled a listed
impairment. (Tr. 464). The ALJ considered Wartak's mental
impairments, singly and in combination, according to the
criteria in Listings 12.03, 12.04, 12.06, and 12.08. (Tr.
464). Accordingly, the ALJ determined that the severity of
Wartak's mental impairments did not meet or medically
equal the listings. (Tr. 464).
finding that Wartak did not meet the above listings, the ALJ
considered the paragraph B criteria for mental impairments,
which required at least two of the following:
marked restriction of activities of daily living; marked
difficulties in maintaining social functioning; marked
difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or
pace; or repeated episodes of decompensation, each of
(Tr. 465). The ALJ defined a marked limitation as more than
moderate but less than extreme and repeated episodes of
decompensation, each of extended duration, as three episodes
within one year or once every four months with each episode
lasting at least two weeks. (Tr. 465).
determined that Wartak had a mild restriction in activities
of daily living, moderate difficulties in social functioning,
and mild difficulties in concentration, persistence, or pace.
(Tr. 465). The ALJ found that Wartak had no episodes of
decompensation which were of extended duration. (Tr. 465).
Because Wartak did not have two marked limitations or one
marked limitation and repeated episodes of decompensation,
the ALJ determined that he did not satisfy the paragraph B
criteria. (Tr. 466). Additionally, the ALJ found that Wartak
did not satisfy the paragraph C criteria. (Tr. 466).
consideration of the entire record, the ALJ then assessed
Wartak's residual functional capacity (RFC) as follows:
[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to
perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but
with the following nonexertional limitations: limited to
frequent stoop, couch, crawl, kneel, balance, and climbing of
ramps and stairs, no climbing of ladders, ropes, or
scaffolding; limited to frequent near and far acuity; should
avoid work that involves objects moving from left to right
due to visual defects in the left eye and limits in depth
perception in the left eye but otherwise can read at least
newspaper print or greater, avoid hazards in the workplace,
and handle small, medium, and large objects; should avoid
concentrated exposure to loud noise; should avoid exposure to
hazards such as slippery, wet, uneven surfaces, moving
machinery, or unprotected heights; should avoid concentrated
exposure to extreme temperatures and vibration; can
understand, remember, and carry out work tasks and
instructions without limitations; can maintain adequate
attention and concentration to work tasks and instructions;
limited to occasional and superficial contact with coworkers
and supervisors; limited to incidental contact with general
public; requires work free of fast paced production and
quota; works best independently of others or in smaller teams
of three or four; and can manage the changes associated
within a routine work environment.
(Tr. 466). The ALJ explained that in considering Wartak's
symptoms she followed a two-step process. (Tr. 467). First,
she determined whether there was a physical or mental
impairment that was shown by a medically acceptable clinical
or laboratory diagnostic technique that reasonably could be
expected to produce Wartak's pain or other symptoms. (Tr.
467). Then, she evaluated the intensity, persistence, and
limiting effects of the symptoms to determine the extent to
which they limited Wartak's functioning. (Tr. 467). The
ALJ determined that Wartak's medically determinable
impairments reasonably could have been expected to cause the
alleged symptoms. (Tr. 467). However, Wartak's ...