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Esquibel v. Berryhill

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

April 15, 2019

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 Martina Esquibel on May 31, 2018, and Plaintiff's Social Security Brief in Support of Remand for Further Proceedings [DE 15], filed on October 8, 2018. Plaintiff requests that the May 31, 2017 decision of the Administrative Law Judge denying her claim for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income be reversed and remanded for further proceedings. On February 7, 2019, the Commissioner filed a response. Plaintiff has not filed a reply brief, and the time to do so has passed. For the following reasons, the Court denies Plaintiff's request for remand and affirms the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration.


         On February 21, 2015, Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits, and, on January 13, 2015, Plaintiff protectively filed an application for supplemental security income. Plaintiff alleges a disability onset date of July 15, 2014. The claims were denied initially and on reconsideration. Plaintiff requested a hearing, and the hearing was held on January 25, 2017. On May 3, 2017, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision, making the following findings:[1]

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2018.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 15, 2014, the alleged onset date.
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: mild dextroscoliosis of the thoracic spine and mild to moderate degenerative disc disease (DDD) of the lumbar spine; left knee MCL injury; longstanding asthma with current mild nocturnal hypoxemia requiring nocturnal supplemental oxygen (O2); bilateral hammer toes/hallux valgus/bunions; obesity; and chronic pain syndrome.
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 [ALJ found] that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work with standing and/or walking two hours in an eight-hour workday and with sitting the remainder of the day, as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except as reduced by the following. Additional limitations include occasional climbing of ramps/stairs, balancing, stooping, kneeling, and crouch[ing], but no crawling or climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. Finally, the claimant should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold/heat and to wetness, humidity, fumes, dusts, gases, poor ventilation, as well as wet, slippery or uneven surfaces, unprotected heights and dangerous moving machinery.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work.
7. The claimant was born [in 1970] and was 44 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date.
8. The claimant has a limited education and is able to communicate in English.
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills.
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 July 15, 2014, through the date of this decision.

(AR 114-22). The ALJ found that Plaintiff stopped working in 2014 because she moved from the State of Texas to the State of Indiana and not because of her ongoing alleged medical conditions. (AR 117, 223).

         The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, leaving the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481. Plaintiff filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for review of the Agency's decision.

         The parties filed forms of consent to have this case assigned to a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all further proceedings and to order the entry of a final judgment in this case. Therefore, this Court has jurisdiction to decide this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         STANDARD ...

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