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Miller v. Saul

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

September 4, 2019

DANITA L. MILLER, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE JOHN E. MARTIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         This matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by Plaintiff Danita L. Miller, and Plaintiff's Opening Brief [DE 17], filed November 27, 2018. Plaintiff requests that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge be reversed and remanded for further proceedings. On March 7, 2019, the Commissioner filed a response, and on March 25, 2019, Plaintiff filed a reply. For the following reasons, the Court grants Plaintiff's request for remand.

         I. Background

         On September 6, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for benefits alleging disability beginning November 27, 2012. On July 31, 2015, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Martin McClelland issued a decision denying benefits, and the Appeals Council denied review. On May 25, 2017, this Court issued an Opinion and Order reversing the ALJ's decision and remanding the matter for further proceedings, pursuant to the parties' agreement. On January 17, 2018, ALJ Michelle Whetsel held a hearing at which Plaintiff, with an attorney, and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. On March 7, 2018, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled.

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

1. The claimant last met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through September 30, 2013.
2. The claimant did not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period of her alleged onset date of November 27, 2012 through her date last insured of September 30, 2013.
3. Through the date last insured, the claimant had the following severe impairments: obesity, arthritis in lumbar spine, arthritis in the ankles bilaterally, seizure disorder, anxiety, depression, and migraine headaches.
4. Through the date last insured, the claimant did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one the listed impairments in 20 CFR 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
5. The claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except that she could occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but should never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. She could occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl. She had to avoid concentrated exposure to extreme heat, extreme cold, noise at the DOT 4 level (loud), vibration, fumes, dusts, odors, gases, poor ventilation, as well as hazards such as moving machinery, unprotected heights, and wet, slippery, or uneven surfaces. She could frequently push and pull and operate foot controls bilaterally. She could remember and follow simple but not detailed instructions. She could perform the tasks assigned, but not always at a production rate pace; however, she could have met the end of day work goals. She could have occasional contact with co-workers, supervisors, and the general public. She could have occasionally adapted to rapid changes in the workplace.
6. Through the date last insured, the claimant was unable to perform any past relevant work.
7. The claimant was 52 years old, which is defined as an individual closely approaching advanced age, on the date last insured.
8. The claimant has at least a high school 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 ...

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