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Sult v. Saul

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

September 10, 2019

KONI RENAE' SULT, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of the 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 Koni Renae Sult, pro se, on June 14, 2018, and Plaintiff's Opening Brief [DE 17], filed November 26, 2018. Plaintiff requests that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge be reversed. On December 27, 2018, the Commissioner filed a response. For the reasons described below, the Court remands this matter for further proceedings.

         I. Background

         On June 23, 2014, Plaintiff filed an application for benefits alleging that she became disabled on December 4, 2013. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. On March 14, 2017, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Romona Scales held a video hearing, at which Plaintiff, with an attorney and a vocational expert (“VE”), testified. On July 27, 2017, 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 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 December 5, 2013, the alleged onset date.
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome status post surgery; obesity; degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine status post lumbar and cervical fusions; and anxiety.
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 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
5. The claimant has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to lift and carry up to 10 pounds occasionally and nominal weight frequently, stand and/or walk for about 2 hours of an 8 hour workday and sit for about 6 hours of an 8 hour workday. She should be allowed to alternate between sitting and standing for up to ten minutes each hour, but would remain on task at her workstation. She can occasionally balance, stoop, crouch, kneel and climb ramps/stairs. She is unable to crawl or climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. She is occasionally able to push/pull with the upper and lower extremities and operate foot controls. She is unable to reach overhead bilaterally. She can frequently handle, finger, and reach in all other directions. She is unable to reach overhead bilaterally. She should avoid even moderate exposure to extreme cold, vibrations, or workplace hazards such as slipper/uneven surfaces, moving mechanical parts, and unprotected heights. She can understand, remember, and carry out simple routine tasks and instructions; maintain adequate attention and concentration for such tasks/instructions; is limited to brief and superficial interaction with supervisors and occasional and brief superficial interaction with the general public. She is to avoid tasks requiring fast paced production or quotas and can manage the changes in a routine work setting.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work.
7. The claimant was 42 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44, on the alleged disability onset date. The claimant subsequently changed age category to a younger individual age 45-49.
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, ” ...

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