United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING GRANTING MOTION TO REMAND
JEFFREY ALKER MEYER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Grace Lillian Blodgett alleges that she is disabled and
cannot work primarily because of migraines, chronic severe
pain, and deficits in attention and memory. Pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), she seeks review of the final decision
of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her claim for
social security disability and supplemental security income.
On August 28, 2017, plaintiff filed a motion to reverse the
decision of the Commissioner. Doc. #14. The Commissioner has
not responded to plaintiff's motion. For the reasons
explained below, I will grant plaintiff's motion and
remand the case to the Commissioner for further proceedings.
Court refers to the transcripts provided by the Commissioner.
See Doc. #12-1 through Doc. #12-10. Plaintiff filed
an application for supplemental security income and
disability insurance benefits on October 22, 2012, alleging a
disability onset date of October 5, 2012. Plaintiff most
recently worked in various capacities for Metro Ministries of
Brooklyn, New York, ending her 10-year tenure with her
employer in 2012 for medical reasons. Plaintiff's claims
were denied on February 15, 2013, and again upon
reconsideration on May 3, 2013. Plaintiff then filed a
written demand for a hearing.
appeared and testified at a hearing before Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) Barry Best on January 22, 2015. Plaintiff was
represented by counsel. A vocational expert testified at the
hearing. On March 27, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision
concluding that plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning
of the Social Security Act. See Doc. #12-3 at 22-39.
After the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for
review, plaintiff filed this federal action.
qualify as disabled, a claimant must show that she is unable
“to engage in any substantial gainful activity by
reason of any medically determinable physical or mental
impairment which . . . has lasted or can be expected to last
for a continuous period of not less than 12 months, ”
and “the impairment must be ‘of such severity
that [the claimant] is not only unable to do [her] previous
work but cannot, considering [her] age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy.'”
Robinson v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 781 F.3d
42, 45 (2d Cir. 2015) (quoting 42 U.S.C. §§
423(d)(1)(A), 423(d)(2)(A)). “[W]ork exists in the
national economy when it exists in significant numbers either
in the region where [a claimant] live[s] or in several other
regions of the country, ” and “when there is a
significant number of jobs (in one or more occupations)
having requirements which [a claimant] [is] able to meet with
[her] physical or mental abilities and vocational
qualifications.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.966(a)-(b);
see also Kennedy v. Astrue, 343 F. App'x 719,
722 (2d Cir. 2009).
evaluate a claimant's disability, and to determine
whether she qualifies for benefits, the agency engages in the
following five-step process:
First, the Commissioner considers whether the claimant is
currently engaged in substantial gainful activity. Where the
claimant is not, the Commissioner next considers whether the
claimant has a “severe impairment” that
significantly limits [his] physical or mental ability to do
basic work activities. If the claimant suffers such an
impairment, the third inquiry is whether, based solely on
medical evidence, the claimant has an impairment that is
listed [in the so-called “Listings”] ¶ 20
C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app.
1. If the claimant has a listed impairment, the Commissioner
will consider the claimant disabled without considering
vocational factors such as age, education, and work
experience; the Commissioner presumes that a claimant who is
afflicted with a listed impairment is unable to perform
substantial gainful activity. Assuming the claimant does not
have a listed impairment, the fourth inquiry is whether,
despite the claimant's severe impairment, [he] has the
residual functional capacity to perform [his] past work.
Finally, if the claimant is unable to perform [his] past
work, the burden then shifts to the Commissioner to determine
whether there is other work which the claimant could perform.
Cage v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 692 F.3d 118,
122-23 (2d Cir. 2012) (alteration in original) (citation
omitted); see also 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4)(i)-(v). In applying this framework, an ALJ can
find a claimant to be disabled or not disabled at a
particular step and can make a decision without proceeding to
the next step. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4).
The claimant bears the burden of proving the case at steps
one through four; at step five, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner to demonstrate that there is other work that the
claimant can perform. See McIntyre v.
Colvin, 758 F.3d 146, 150 (2d Cir. 2014).
concluded that the plaintiff was not disabled within the
meaning of the Social Security Act. At step one, the ALJ
determined that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since October 5, 2012, the date of the
alleged onset of her disability. Doc. #12-3 at 24. At step
two, the ALJ found that plaintiff suffered from the following
“severe impairments” during the relevant time
period: fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, organic mental
disorder, and migraines. Ibid.
three, the ALJ determined that plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
Id. at 25.
four, the ALJ found that plaintiff had “the residual
functional capacity to perform work at the light exertional
level, as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b),
” but with the following limitations: plaintiff
“is able to maintain concentration and attention
sufficient to perform only uncomplicated work tasks over an
eight hour workday, assuming short work breaks on average
every two hours, with no more than occasional changes in the
work setting.” Id. at 27. In formulating this
residual functional capacity (RFC), the ALJ “accorded
great weight” to administrative findings of fact made
by the non-examining medical and psychological consultants
for the state agency. Id. at 30. By contrast, the
ALJ concluded that the opinion of plaintiff's primary
treating physician, Dr. Claire Warren, “cannot be
afforded significant evidentiary weight.” Id.
at 29. The ALJ also found that while plaintiff's
“medically determinable impairments could reasonably be
expected to cause some symptoms of the type she alleges, . .
. her statements concerning the intensity, persistence and
limiting effects of these symptoms (and some of those made on
her behalf) are not credible.” Id. at 27. Also
at step four, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff could not
perform any of her past relevant work. Id. at 30.
five, after considering the plaintiff's age, education,
work experience, and RFC, the ALJ concluded that jobs that
plaintiff can perform exist in significant numbers in the
national economy. Id. at 31. In reaching this
conclusion the ALJ relied on the testimony of the vocational
expert, Kenneth R. Smith, who testified at the administrative
hearing that plaintiff could perform representative
occupations such as cashier, cleaner, light assembler,
sedentary assembler, hand packager, or ...