United States District Court, D. Connecticut
STACEY A. REED, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
RULING ON PENDING MOTIONS
WILLIAM I. GARFINKEL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Stacey Reed has filed this appeal of the adverse decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security denying her application
for Supplemental Security Income benefits
(“SSI”). Plaintiff now moves, pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), for an order reversing this decision,
or in the alternative remanding the matter for rehearing.
[Doc. # 23]. Defendant has responded with a motion to affirm
the decision of the Commissioner. [Doc. # 27]. For the
reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion is granted and
the matter shall be remanded for additional proceedings
consistent with this ruling.
standards for determining a claimant's entitlement to
disability benefits, the Commissioner's five-step
framework for evaluating disability claims, and the district
court's review of the Commissioner's final decision
are well-established. The Court is following those standards,
but does not repeat them here.
December 19, 2012, Plaintiff applied for SSI benefits. Her
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. On
November 4, 2013, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge, and on March 16, 2016, a hearing
was held before Matthew Kuperstien (the “ALJ”).
The ALJ issued a decision on June 22, 2015, finding that
Plaintiff was not disabled. Plaintiff then filed a request
for review of the ALJ's decision; the Appeals Council
denied review, and the ALJ's decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner. This action followed.
to the Court's instructions, the parties filed a fact
stipulation. [Doc. # 24]. The Court adopts the stipulation
and incorporates it by reference herein.
The ALJ's Decision
followed the sequential evaluation process for assessing
disability claims. At Step One, he found that Plaintiff had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged
the date of the SSI application. R. 12. At Step Two, the ALJ
found the following severe impairments: degenerative disc
disease of the cervical and lumbar spine; chronic pulmonary
disease; sleep related breathing disorder; history of
degenerative joint disease / frozen shoulder of bilateral
shoulders; bipolar disorder; and post-traumatic stress
disorder. R. 12-13. At Step Three, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments. R. 13-15. Next, the ALJ
determined Plaintiff retains the following residual
Plaintiff can perform light work. She is limited to only
occasional climbing of ramps or stairs, balancing, stooping,
kneeling, crouching, or crawling. She cannot climb ladders,
ropes, or scaffolding. She needs to be able to use a cane to
ambulate. She cannot constantly stand or walk and is limited
to standing and/or walking only 4 to 6 hours cumulatively
during the course of an eight hour workday. She is further
limited to only occasional overhead reaching bilaterally and
to only frequent handling, fingering, or feeling. She needs
to avoid concentrated exposure to work that involves
vibration, gases, poor ventilation, or hazards such as
machinery or heights. She needs to avoid even moderate
exposure to cold, heat, humidity, wetness, cigarette smoke,
fumes, odors, and dust. She is limited to work that involves
understanding, remembering, and carrying out simple
instructions and making simple work-related decisions. She is
limited to work that does not have strict time or production
requirements and can be performed in a nonpublic work
setting. She is limited to work that involves brief or
superficial interaction with coworkers and supervisors of no
more than 20% of an eight hour workday and no teamwork with
15-16. At Step Four, the ALJ found Plaintiff was unable to
perform any past relevant work. R. 21-22. Finally, at Step
Five, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a vocational expert
(“VE”) to conclude that there are jobs in
significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff can
perform. R. 22. Specifically, the VE testified that a person
with the assessed RFC could perform the positions of price
marker, mail clerk, and quality assurance checker. R. 23.
Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff not to be disabled.
The ALJ's RFC Finding
argues that the ALJ's RFC assessment is not supported by
substantial evidence because it does not make a specific
finding as to ...