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Bulla v. Berryhill

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

March 12, 2019

MICHAEL BULLA, 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 Michael Bulla on December 14, 2017, and Plaintiff's Brief in Support of Reversing the Decision of the Commissioner of Social Security [DE 17], filed June 20, 2018. Plaintiff requests that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge be reversed for an award of benefits, or alternatively, reversed and remanded for further proceedings. On August 27, 2018, the Commissioner filed a response, and on October 2, 2018, Plaintiff filed a reply. For the following reasons, the Court grants Plaintiff's request for reversal, with remand for further proceedings.

         I. Background

         On November 16, 2011, Plaintiff filed an application for benefits alleging that he became disabled on December 30, 2008. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. On February 12, 2014, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Patricia Witkowski Supergan issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled, and Plaintiff appealed the decision. On September 14, 2016, this Court issued an opinion and order reversing and remanding the ALJ's decision, and the Appeals Council remanded the matter to the ALJ. On September 20, 2016, ALJ Supergan held a video hearing at which Plaintiff, with an attorney representative, a medical expert, and a vocational expert testified. On September 13, 2017, the ALJ issued a second decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled.

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

1. The claimant met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2008.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date.
3. The claimant has had the following severe impairments: obesity, degenerative joint disease of the left shoulder, arthritis, osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine, and depression.
4. The claimant has not had an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one the listed impairments in 20 CFR 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
5. The 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 never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; frequently reach in all directions but not reach overhead with both upper extremities; and frequently handle, finger, and feel with both upper extremities. He can tolerate occasional exposure to and/or occasionally work around extreme cold and heat, wetness, vibration, and hazards such as moving machinery or unprotected heights. He is limited to performing simple routine tasks requiring no more than short simple instructions and simple work-related decision making with few workplace changes.
6. The claimant has no past relevant work.
7. Prior to the established disability onset date, the claimant was an individual closely approaching advanced age. On August 16, 2016, the claimant's age category changed to an individual of advanced age.
8. The claimant has a limited education and is able to communicate in English.
9. Transferability of job skills is not an issue in this case because the claimant does not ...

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