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Bratcher v. Berryhill

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

February 14, 2019

LORI C. BRATCHER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN E. MARTIN MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by Plaintiff Lori Bratcher on September 27, 2017, and Plaintiff's Opening Brief [DE 15], filed March 12, 2018. Plaintiff requests that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge be reversed and remanded for further proceedings. On April 12, 2018, the Commissioner filed a response, and on May 7, 2018, Plaintiff filed a reply. For the following reasons, the Court grants Plaintiff's request for remand.

         I. Background

         In December 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for benefits alleging that she became disabled on August 31, 2011. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. On August 11, 2016, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Shane McGovern held a hearing at which Plaintiff, with an attorney, and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. On September 28, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled.

         The ALJ made the following findings under the required five-step analysis:

1. The claimant last met the insured status of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2015.
2. The claimant did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the period from her amended onset date of September 18, 2012, through her date last insured of December 31, 2015.
3. Through the date last insured, the claimant had the severe impairments: morbid obesity, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, and a spinal disorder.
4. Through the date last insured, the claimant did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meet or medically equal the severity of one the listed impairments in 20 CFR 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
5. Through the date last insured, the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform light work, except: the claimant could never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; was limited to occasional climbing of ramps and stairs and occasional balancing, stooping, crouching, kneeling, and crawling. The claimant could have no exposure to unprotected heights or moving mechanical parts, and needed to avoid more than occasional exposure to irritants, such as fumes, odors, dusts, gases, or poorly ventilated areas. The claimant was limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks free of production rate pace. The claimant was limited to low stress jobs, defined as not requiring her to cope with work-related circumstances that could be dangerous to the worker or others; she was never to have any interaction with the public, but was capable of up to occasional interaction with coworkers and supervisors.
6. The claimant was unable to perform past relevant work.
7. The claimant was 34 years old, defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the date last insured.
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English.
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or not ...

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