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Gray v. Berryhill

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

May 9, 2019

AMANDA L. GRAY, 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, Amanda L. Gray, on November 2, 2017. For the following reasons, the decision of the Commissioner is REMANDED.

         Background

         The plaintiff, Amanda L. Gray, filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on September 15, 2008, alleging a disability onset date of September 2, 1985. (Tr. 389). The Disability Determination Bureau denied Gray's applications initially on January 6, 2009, and upon reconsideration on March 17, 2009. (Tr. 237-240). The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision on June 24, 2011. (Tr. 206-223). Gray filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision with the Appeals Council, and the Appeals Council issued an Order remanding the case to the ALJ. (Tr. 232-235). The ALJ issued a second unfavorable decision. (Tr. 13-38). The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-5).

         Gray filed an appeal in the United States District Court Northern District of Indiana that was remanded by District Judge Jon E. DeGuilio on January 13, 2016. (Tr. 1441-1461). A third hearing was held on August 11, 2016 before ALJ William E. Sampson, and the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on September 15, 2016. (Tr. 1175-1196). Gray and her brother, Robert Gray, appeared and testified at the hearing. (Tr. 1175). Vocational Expert (VE) Carrie E. Anderson appeared telephonically at the hearing. (Tr. 1175). The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1161-1168).

         Gray met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2008. (Tr. 1177). At step one of the five-step sequential analysis for determining whether an individual is disabled, the ALJ found that Gray had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 2, 1985, the alleged onset date. (Tr. 1177).

         At step two, the ALJ determined that Gray had the following severe impairments: right upper extremity ulnar neuropathy, plantar fasciitis, bilateral calcaneal heel bursitis, bronchial asthma, morbid obesity, learning disorder, ADHD, dysthymic disorder, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, and personality disorder. (Tr. 1178). The ALJ determined that Gray's impairments caused more than minimal limitations in her ability to perform basic work-related activities and were considered severe. (Tr. 1178).

         At step three, the ALJ concluded that Gray 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. 1178). The ALJ considered listing 1.02 (major dysfunction of a joint) and listing 3.02 (chronic pulmonary insufficiency). (Tr. 1178). Additionally, the ALJ considered Gray's obesity in relation to the musculoskeletal, respiratory, and cardiovascular body system listings, as required. (Tr. 1178).

         The ALJ also considered the severity of Gray's mental impairments, singly and in combination, against the criteria of listings 12.02, 12.04, and 12.06. (Tr. 1178). In finding that Gray did not meet the above listings, 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. 1178). 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. 1178).

         The ALJ determined that Gray had mild restriction in activities of daily living, moderate difficulties in social functioning, and moderate difficulties in concentration, persistence, or pace. (Tr. 1178). Additionally, the ALJ determined that Gray had not experienced any episodes of decompensation which were of extended duration. (Tr. 1178). Because Gray's mental impairments did not cause at least two “marked” limitations or one “marked” limitation and “repeated” episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration, the paragraph B criteria was not satisfied. (Tr. 1181). Moreover, the ALJ concluded that the paragraph C criteria was not satisfied. (Tr. 1181).

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

[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except she can never climb ladders, ropes, scaffolds, kneel, crouch or crawl, or more than occasionally climb ramps or stairs. She can frequently but not constantly use the right upper extremity. She must avoid concentrated exposure to humidity, wetness, breathing irritants such as fumes, odors, dust, gases, loud noise, extremes of heat and cold, and vibration. She is limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks, with ...

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