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Gandy v. Berryhill

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

March 12, 2019

AUBREY F. GANDY, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, 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, Aubrey F. Gandy, on July 14, 2017. For the following reasons, the decision of the Commissioner is REMANDED.

         Background

         The plaintiff, Aubrey F. Gandy, filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on June 23, 2015, alleging a disability onset date of April 25, 2015. (Tr. 17). The Disability Determination Bureau denied Gandy's application initially on October 20, 2015, and again upon reconsideration on January 14, 2016. (Tr. 17). Gandy subsequently filed a timely request for a hearing on March 14, 2016. (Tr. 17). A hearing was held on February 13, 2017, before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Edward Kristof, and the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on March 1, 2017. (Tr. 17-27). Vocational Expert (VE) Richard T. Fisher and Gandy appeared and testified at the hearing. (Tr. 17). The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-3).

         Gandy met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through March 31, 2016. (Tr. 19). At step one of the five-step sequential analysis for determining whether an individual is disabled, the ALJ found that Gandy had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 25, 2015, the alleged onset date. (Tr. 19).

         At step two, the ALJ determined that Gandy had the following severe impairments: bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), borderline functioning disorder, and an abdominal gunshot wound with a history of pancreatitis. (Tr. 20). Gandy's non-severe impairments consisted of breathing issues, palpitations, and visual acuity problems. (Tr. 20). However, the ALJ determined that Gandy's non-severe impairments did not cause more than a minimal limitation on his ability to perform basic work activities. (Tr. 20).

         At step three, the ALJ concluded that Gandy did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 20). The ALJ determined that Gandy's mental impairments, considered singly and in combination, did not meet or medically equal the criteria of Listings 12.04, 12.11, and 12.15. (Tr. 20). The ALJ considered the paragraph B criteria for mental impairments, which required at least one extreme or two marked limitations in a broad area of functioning:

understanding, remembering, or applying information; interacting with others; concentrating, persisting or maintaining pace; and adapting or managing oneself.

(Tr. 20). The ALJ defined a marked limitation as functioning independently, appropriately, effectively, and on a sustained basis, while an extreme limitation is the inability to function independently, appropriately, or effectively, and on a sustained basis. (Tr. 20-21).

         The ALJ determined that Gandy had moderate limitations in understanding, remembering, or applying information; interacting with others; concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; and adapting or managing himself. (Tr. 21). Because Gandy's mental impairments did not cause at least two “marked” limitations or one “extreme” limitation, the paragraph B criteria was not satisfied. (Tr. 21). Additionally, the ALJ determined that the paragraph C criteria was not satisfied. (Tr. 21).

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

[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to lift and carry up to 50 pounds occasionally, 25 pounds frequently, stand and/or walk about 6 hours in an 8-hour workday, and sit about 6 hours in an 8-hour workday with normal breaks. The claimant is to be exposed to no more than moderate noise environments. He is to avoid all exposure to unprotected heights or dangerous moving machinery, and can understand, remember, and carry out instructions needed to perform unskilled, simple, and repetitive work. The claimant is further limited to only occasional, brief, and superficial interaction with coworkers and supervisors, and no interaction with the public as part of any job duties. He cannot perform tandem work, or fast-paced/piece-rate work, and would likely be off-task 5% of the workday beyond regular breaks. Of note, the claimant alleges restricted ability to read, write, and perform basic math, so even though he has completed the 11thgrade, in light of the claimant's borderline functioning the academic capacities for this individual has been taken into consideration at the limited level as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c).

(Tr. 21). The ALJ explained that in considering Gandy's symptoms he followed a two-step process. (Tr. 22). 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 Gandy's pain or other symptoms. (Tr. 22). Then, he evaluated the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of the symptoms to determine the extent to which they limited Gandy's functioning. (Tr. 22).

         The ALJ found that Gandy's medically determinable impairments reasonably could be expected to cause the alleged symptoms. (Tr. 23). However, the ALJ indicated that Gandy'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. (Tr. 23). The ALJ noted that Gandy had a history of inconsistent outpatient treatment, with diagnoses consisting of bipolar, most recent episode depression, PTSD, borderline intellectual functioning, and a GAF assignment of 50. (Tr. 23). Also, Gandy had difficulty when he was off his medications. (Tr. 25). Yet, the ALJ noted that Gandy sustained a full prescription and treatment coverage throughout the period under consideration. (Tr. 25). Gandy's treating sources did not suggest that he was incapable of taking his medications reliably or that he had undesirable side effects. (Tr. 25). Thus, the ALJ found that the record suggested that he did not make taking his medications a priority, which the ALJ determined was consistent with the longitudinal picture of the unreliability and inconsistency in his assertions regarding the impact of his impairments on his functioning. (Tr. 25).

         At step four, the ALJ found that Gandy had no past relevant work. (Tr. 25). Considering Gandy's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ concluded that there were jobs in the national economy that he could perform, including laundry laborer (52, 000 jobs nationally), cook's helper (85, 000 jobs nationally), and meat trimmer (43, 000 jobs nationally). (Tr. 26). The ALJ found that Gandy had not been under a disability, ...


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