United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. RODOVICH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the court on petition for judicial review of
the decision of the Commissioner filed by the plaintiff, Jose
Torres, on October 12, 2017. For the following reasons, the
decision of the Commissioner is REMANDED.
plaintiff, Jose Torres, filed applications for Disability
Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on March
10, 2016 and March 17, 2016, respectively, alleging a
disability onset date of June 1, 2015. (Tr. 16). The
Disability Determination Bureau denied Torres'
applications initially on May 13, 2016, and again upon
reconsideration on August 23, 2016. (Tr. 16). Torres
subsequently filed a timely request for a hearing on
September 13, 2016. (Tr. 16). A video hearing was held on
February 21, 2017, before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
William E. Sampson, and the ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision on March 14, 2017. (Tr. 16-31). Vocational Expert
(VE) Carrie E. Anderson appeared by telephone at the hearing.
(Tr. 16). The Appeals Council denied review, making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
met the insured status requirements of the Social Security
Act through September 30, 2018. (Tr. 18). At step one of the
five-step sequential analysis for determining whether an
individual is disabled, the ALJ found that Torres had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 1, 2015,
the alleged onset date. (Tr. 18).
two, the ALJ determined that Torres had the following severe
impairments: bilateral sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) with
tinnitus and hearing aid use; hypertension (HTN) status post
small vessel ischemic changes and an acute/sub-acute left
thalamic infarct; and bipolar disorder. (Tr. 18). The ALJ
found that Torres' severe impairments, considered singly
and in combination, imposed more than a minimal limitation on
his physical and mental ability to engage in basic work
activities. (Tr. 18). The ALJ found that Torres' fecal
incontinence and/or irritable bowel syndrome were not
medically determinable impairments. (Tr. 19).
three, the ALJ concluded that Torres 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 indicated that, as for Torres' bilateral
sensorineural hearing loss, he retained the ability to carry
on a conversation at normal levels. (Tr. 20). Also, as for
his hypertension, the ALJ indicated that it was not of such
severity as to meet or medically equal listing 4.00. Finally,
the ALJ determined that Torres' mental impairments did
not meet or medically equal listings 12.04 and 12.06. (Tr.
considered the paragraph B criteria for mental impairments,
which required at least one extreme or two marked limitations
in a broad area of functioning which include:
understanding, remembering, or applying information;
interacting with others; concentrating, persisting or
maintaining pace; and adapting or managing oneself.
(Tr. 20). The ALJ indicated that a marked limitation means
the ability to function independently, appropriately,
effectively, and on a sustained basis is seriously limited,
while an extreme limitation is the inability to function
independently, appropriately, or effectively, and on a
sustained basis. (Tr. 20-21).
determined that Torres had mild limitations in understanding,
remembering, or applying information; moderate limitations in
interacting with others; moderate limitations in
concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; and no
limitations in adapting or managing himself. (Tr. 21).
Because Torres' mental impairments did not cause at least
two “marked” limitations or one
“extreme” limitation, the ALJ determined that he
did not satisfy the paragraph B criteria. (Tr. 21).
Additionally, the ALJ determined that Torres did not satisfy
the paragraph C criteria. (Tr. 21).
consideration of the entire record, the ALJ then assessed
Torres' residual functional capacity (RFC) as follows:
[T]he 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 only occasionally climb
ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and/or
crawl. The claimant can never climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds, and must avoid concentrated exposure to noise. The
claimant is further limited to simple, routine, and
repetitive tasks. The claimant can tolerate brief and
superficial interaction with co-workers and supervisors, but
the work cannot require interaction with the general public.
(Tr. 22). The ALJ explained that in considering Torres'
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
Torres' pain or other symptoms. (Tr. 22). Then, he
evaluated the intensity, persistence, and ...