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Torie B. v. Saul

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

November 1, 2019

TORIE B.[1], Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, 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, Torie B., on October 11, 2018. For the following reasons, the decision of the Commissioner is REMANDED.

         Background

         The plaintiff, Torie B., filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits on July 2, 2015, alleging a disability onset date of August 17, 2013. (Tr. 16). The Disability Determination Bureau denied Torie B.'s application initially on August 11, 2015, and again upon reconsideration on December 21, 2015. (Tr. 16). Torie B. subsequently filed a timely request for a hearing on February 9, 2016. (Tr. 16). A hearing was held on July 14, 2017, before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Trina Moore, and the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on November 21, 2017. (Tr. 16-25). Vocational Expert (VE) Stephanie Archer appeared at the hearing. (Tr. 16). The Appeals Council denied review making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-3).

         Torie B. last met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act on June 30, 2016. (Tr. 18). At step one of the five-step sequential analysis for determining whether an individual is disabled, the ALJ found that Torie B. had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period from her alleged onset date of August 17, 2013 through her date last insured of June 30, 2016. (Tr. 18).

         At step two, the ALJ determined that Torie B. had the following severe impairments: chronic hypertension, cardiac arrhythmia, breast cancer/ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), fibrocystic breast disease/breast fibroadenoma, asthma, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, and obesity. (Tr. 18). The ALJ found that the above medically determinable impairments significantly limited Torie B.'s ability to perform basic work activities. (Tr. 18).

         Torie B. also alleged disability due to her chronic migraines and insomnia with observed sleep apnea. (Tr. 18). However, the ALJ indicated that Torie B.'s migraines and insomnia were well-controlled and caused no more than a minimal limitation on her ability to engage in basic work activities. (Tr. 19). Furthermore, the ALJ determined that Torie B.'s anxiety did not cause more than a minimal limitation on her ability to engage in basic work activities. (Tr. 19). The ALJ found that Torie B. experienced mild limitations in understanding, remembering, or applying information; a mild limitation interacting with others; mild limitations concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; and no limitations adapting or managing herself. (Tr. 19). The ALJ concluded that because Torie B.'s anxiety caused no more than a mild limitation in any of the functional areas it was non-severe. (Tr. 19).

         At step three, the ALJ concluded that Torie B. 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 no treating physician or examining physician indicated diagnostic findings that satisfied any listed impairment. (Tr. 20). The ALJ also considered Torie B.'s obesity in conjunction with her severe impairments. (Tr. 20). However, the ALJ determined that none of the listings were met. (Tr. 20).

         After consideration of the entire record, the ALJ then assessed Torie B.'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) with: occasional reaching with the right upper extremity; no overhead reaching; never climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasionally climbing ramps and stairs; utilizing a hand held assistive device for walking; occasional stooping, crouching, kneeling, crawling; and avoiding concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritants such as fumes, odors, dusts, and gases.

(Tr. 20). The ALJ explained that in considering Torie B.'s symptoms she followed a two-step process. (Tr. 21). First, she 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 Torie B.'s pain or other symptoms. (Tr. 21). Then she evaluated the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of the symptoms to determine the extent to which they limited Torie B.'s functioning. (Tr. 21).

         After considering the evidence, the ALJ found that Torie B.'s medically determinable impairments reasonably could be expected to produce her alleged symptoms. (Tr. 21). However, her statements concerning the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of her symptoms were not entirely consistent with the medical evidence and other evidence in the record. (Tr. 21). The ALJ assigned little weight to the opinions of the State agency medical consultants, treating physician Dr. Okechi Nwabara, M.D., and the third-party function report submitted by Torie B.'s brother. (Tr. 23).

         At step four, the ALJ found that Torie B. was unable to perform any past relevant work. (Tr. 23). Considering Torie B.'s age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined that there were jobs in the national economy that she could perform, including rental clerk (52, 000 jobs nationally) and sandwich board carrier (1, 300 jobs nationally). (Tr. 24). The ALJ found that Torie B. had not been ...


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