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Hampton-Lewis v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

November 29, 2018

LANGAWA HAMPTON-LEWIS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Andrew P. Rodovich United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the court on petition for judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner filed by the plaintiff, Langawa Hampton-Lewis, on July 5, 2017. For the following reasons, the decision of the Commissioner is REMANDED.

         Background

         The plaintiff, Langawa Hampton-Lewis, filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on June 3, 2013, alleging a disability onset date of October 1, 2012. (Tr. 18). The Disability Determination Bureau denied Hampton-Lewis's applications initially on August 15, 2013, and again on reconsideration on October 10, 2013. (Tr. 18). Hampton-Lewis filed a timely request for a hearing on November 11, 2013. (Tr. 18). A video hearing was held on April 29, 2015, before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) William G. Reamon, and the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on July 14, 2015. (Tr. 18). The Appeals Council remanded the decision and ordered a new hearing. (Tr. 18). A new hearing was held on January 4, 2017, before ALJ William E. Sampson, and again the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on January 13, 2017. (Tr. 18-30). Vocational Expert (VE), Thomas A. Gusloff, and Hampton-Lewis testified at the hearing. (Tr. 18). The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-6).

         Hampton-Lewis met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2016. (Tr. 21). The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on January 13, 2017, and made findings as to each of the steps in the five-step sequential analysis. (Tr. 18-30). At step one of the five-step sequential analysis for determining whether an individual is disabled, the ALJ found that Hampton-Lewis had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 1, 2012, the alleged onset date. (Tr. 21).

         At step two, the ALJ determined that Hampton-Lewis had the following severe impairments: osteoarthritis, history of ankle fracture, and bipolar disorder. (Tr. 21). At step three, the ALJ concluded that Hampton-Lewis 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. 21). The ALJ considered Listings 1.02 and 1.06, and did not find that Hampton-Lewis's osteoarthritis and ankle fracture met or equaled the criteria specified for the listings. (Tr. 22). The ALJ found that there was no evidence in the record that Hampton-Lewis had gross anatomical deformity in any joint or lacked the ability to ambulate or perform fine or gross movements effectively. (Tr. 22). The ALJ cited evidence from the record that Hampton-Lewis had a normal gait on several occasions. (Tr. 22).

         Next, the ALJ determined that the severity of Hampton-Lewis's mental impairment did not meet or medically equal Listing 12.04. (Tr. 22). In finding that Hampton-Lewis did not meet the above listing, 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 extended duration.

(Tr. 22). 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. 22).

         The ALJ determined that Hampton-Lewis had mild restrictions in activities of daily living. (Tr. 22). Hampton-Lewis indicated that she sometimes went two or three days before bathing or combing her hair. (Tr. 22). Yet, the ALJ noted that otherwise she reported no problems with her personal care. (Tr. 22). Also, she reported that she was able to wash dishes, do laundry, sweep, drive, and shop. (Tr. 22).

         Next, the ALJ concluded that Hampton-Lewis had moderate restrictions in social functioning. (Tr. 22). Hampton-Lewis indicated that she did not have any issues getting along with family members, friends, neighbors, or others. (Tr. 22). Moreover, she reported that she regularly talked to friends and family members on the phone. (Tr. 22).

         Finally, the ALJ found that Hampton-Lewis had moderate difficulties in concentration, persistence, or pace. (Tr. 22). The ALJ noted that Hampton-Lewis completed four or more years of college and had a history of performing skilled work. (Tr. 23). Hampton-Lewis indicated that she can follow written and spoken instructions well. (Tr. 23). The ALJ considered the State agency consultants' opinion that Hampton-Lewis had no severe mental impairments. (Tr. 23). Thus, the ALJ found that Hampton-Lewis had no restrictions in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace. (Tr. 23). Moreover, the ALJ found that Hampton-Lewis did not experience any episodes of decompensation. (Tr. 23). Because Hampton-Lewis did not have two marked limitations or one marked limitation and repeated episodes of decompensation, the ALJ determined that she did not satisfy the paragraph B criteria. (Tr. 23). Additionally, the ALJ concluded that she did not satisfy the paragraph C criteria. (Tr. 23).

         After consideration of the entire record, the ALJ then assessed Hampton-Lewis's residual functional capacity (RFC) as follows:

[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except the claimant can lift and carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently. The claimant can sit for six hours and stand and/or walk for six hours for a total of eight hours in a workday, with normal breaks. The claimant can occasionally climb stairs and ramps, but cannot climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. The claimant can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. The claimant is limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks and occasional interaction with coworkers, supervisors, and the public. The claimant's work must involve few workplace changes.

(Tr. 23). The ALJ explained that in considering Hampton-Lewis's symptoms he followed a two-step process. (Tr. 24). 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 Hampton-Lewis's pain or other symptoms. (Tr. 24). Then, he evaluated the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of the symptoms to determine the extent to which they limited Hampton-Lewis's functioning. (Tr. 24).

         The ALJ, after consideration of the evidence, determined that Hampton-Lewis's medically determinable impairments could reasonably be expected to cause the alleged symptoms. (Tr. 24). However, her statements concerning the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of her symptoms were not entirely consistent with the medical evidence and other evidence in the record. (Tr. 24). The ALJ found that the record indicated that in terms of Hampton-Lewis's alleged physical impairments she was more than minimally limited, but not disabled. (Tr. 24). He noted that she had engaged in relatively little treatment. (Tr. 25). She underwent surgery on her right ankle on September 20, 2013, but as of October 17, 2013 she was described as healing well and having full range of motion, as well as functional strength. (Tr. 25). Also, the ALJ found that the medical records documented few functional limitations. (Tr. 25). Hampton Lewis had full muscle strength in her upper and lower extremities. (Tr. 25). The ALJ noted that the records indicated that Hampton-Lewis had a normal gait; was able to stoop and squat without difficulty; and was able to get on and off the examination table without difficulty and did not require assistance. (Tr. 25). Also, she was able to stand from a sitting position without difficulty and did not appear to be in acute distress. (Tr. 25).

         Next, in considering Hampton-Lewis's mental impairments the ALJ noted that she had a history of mental health treatment. (Tr. 25). However, the ALJ indicated that Hampton-Lewis had not been hospitalized for mental health reasons since her alleged onset date. (Tr. 25). The ALJ noted that Hampton-Lewis's mental health records indicated that she only had been partially compliant with her medication. (Tr. 26). However, at the time of the decision the ALJ found that she was compliant with her medication and her most recent record reported that she was “functioning okay.” (Tr. 26).

         As for the opinion evidence, the ALJ assigned considerable weight to the opinions of the State agency medical consultants. (Tr. 26). The State agency medical consultants determined that Hampton-Lewis was limited to work at the medium exertional level with additional postural limitations. (Tr. 26). Next, the ALJ assigned some weight to the opinions of the State agency psychological consultants. (Tr. 27). The State agency psychological consultants found that Hampton-Lewis did not have a mental impairment. (Tr. 27). The ALJ assigned little weight to the opinions of Hampton-Lewis's treating physicians, Dana Marlowe, MD, and Kular Rajnishpaul, MD. (Tr. 27).

         At step four, the ALJ found that Hampton-Lewis was unable to perform any past relevant work. (Tr. 28). Considering Hampton-Lewis's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ concluded that there were jobs in the national economy that she could perform, including cleaner/housekeeping (200, 000 jobs nationally), linen grader (50, 000 jobs nationally), and marker (200, 000 jobs nationally). (Tr. 29-30). The ALJ found that Hampton-Lewis had not been under a ...


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