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Flores v. Berryhill

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

November 28, 2018

ROSA L. FLORES, Plaintiff,
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 Rosa L. Flores on November 3, 2017, and on an Opening Brief of Plaintiff in Social Security Appeal Pursuant to L.R. 7.3 [DE 23], filed by Plaintiff on June 26, 2018. Plaintiff requests that the March 24, 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 August 21, 2018, the Deputy Commissioner filed a response, and Plaintiff filed a reply on October 30, 2018. For the following reasons, the Court grants Plaintiff's request for remand.


         On June 27, 2011, Plaintiff filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income, alleging disability as of March 25, 2009, which has been amended to November 5, 2010. The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Maryann Bright held a hearing and ultimately denied benefits. On February 9, 2015, Magistrate Judge Andrew P. Rodovich, presiding by consent of the parties, granted Plaintiff's request to remand the matter to the agency for further proceedings. On remand, the Appeals Council remanded the matter to ALJ Stephanie Katich for a hearing and new decision. The ALJ held a hearing on February 17, 2016. In attendance at the hearing were Plaintiff, Plaintiff's attorney, Plaintiff's son, and an impartial vocational expert. Plaintiff testified with the assistance of a Spanish interpreter. On March 24, 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 September 30, 2014.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 25, 2009 [sic], the alleged onset date.
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, status post L5 hemilaminectomy and discectomy; bilateral knee osteoarthritis; obesity; pain disorder; hypothyroidism; vitamin D deficiency; and, depression.
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 light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except that the claimant can stand and/or walk for two hours in an eight-hour workday; she can occasionally climb ramps and stairs; she can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; she can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; and, she should avoid all exposure to wetness and humidity, uneven surfaces, unprotected heights, and hazards such as dangerous machinery. In addition, due to a combination of the claimant's impairments and impairment-related symptoms, including any loss of concentration, persistence, or pace due to her pain symptoms, the claimant can understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions, she can make judgments on simple work-related decisions, she can respond appropriately to supervisors, coworkers, and the public, she can respond to usual work situations, and she can deal with routine changes in a routine work setting.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work.
7. The claimant was born [in 1968] and was 41 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date.
8. The claimant is illiterate 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 March 25, 2009, through ...

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