United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON CROSS MOTIONS TO REMAND AND AFFIRM DECISION
OF THE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY
Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge
Michelle Milhomme asserts that she is disabled and unable to
work due to several medical conditions. She filed this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking review of a final
decision of defendant Commissioner of Social Security, who
denied plaintiff's application for social security
disability insurance benefits. Plaintiff has filed a motion
to reverse the decision of the Commissioner (Doc. #18), and
defendant has filed a motion to affirm the decision of the
Commissioner (Doc. #19). For the reasons set forth below, I
will grant the motion to remand and deny the motion to affirm
the decision of the Commissioner.
Court refers to the transcripts filed by the Commissioner.
See Doc. #11-1 through Doc. #11-14. Plaintiff filed
an application for social security disability income on March
20, 2014, alleging a disability beginning on January 31,
2014. Plaintiff's claim was initially denied on May 13,
2014 and denied again upon reconsideration on September 25,
2014. She then filed a written request for a hearing on
October 10, 2014.
appeared and testified at a hearing before Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) Ronald J. Thomas on November 9, 2015. Plaintiff
was represented by counsel. On February 26, 2016, the ALJ
issued a decision concluding that plaintiff was not disabled
within the meaning of the Social Security Act. See
Doc. #11-3 at 75-91. The Appeals Council affirmed the
decision of the ALJ on June 13, 2017. Plaintiff then filed
this federal action on August 11, 2017.
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 h[er] previous
work but cannot, considering h[er] 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 Fed.Appx. 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 her 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, she has the residual functional capacity to
perform her past work. Finally, if the claimant is unable to
perform her 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 may
find a claimant to be disabled or not disabled at a
particular step and may 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 plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning
of the Social Security Act. At Step One, the ALJ determined
that plaintiff last met the insured status requirement of the
Social Security Act on December 31, 2016. Doc. #11-3 at 78.
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since February 1, 2014. Ibid. At Step Two, the ALJ
found that plaintiff suffered from the following severe
impairments: “history of lumbar fusion in 2010,
cervical spondylosis, nonsevere knee condition, bipolar
disorder, anxiety disorder, history of gastric bypass surgery
and prior obesity (improved), and nonsevere incisional hernia
repair surgery (recent).” 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 81.
Four, the ALJ found that, through the date of last insured,
plaintiff had “the residual functional capacity (RFC)
to perform sedentary work with the further limitation of only
occasionally bending, balancing, climbing, twisting,
crawling, squatting and kneeling. In addition, she can
perform occasional interaction with co-workers, the public
and supervisors, and she can sustain simple, routine,
repetitive tasks which do not require working closely with
the public or teamwork.” Id. at 83. The ALJ
also concluded at Step Four that plaintiff was unable to
perform any of her past relevant work. Id. at 89.
Five, after considering plaintiff's age, education, work
experience, and RFC, the ALJ concluded that, through the date
of last insured, there are jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could perform.
Ibid. The only such job identified by the ALJ was
addresser. Id. at 90. The ALJ found that there are
110 such jobs in Connecticut and 6, 000 jobs nationally.
Ibid. The ALJ ultimately held that plaintiff was not
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.
Id. at 91.
of Medical Opinion and the ...