United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING AND ORDER
F. Martinez United States Magistrate Judge.
plaintiff, Carmelita Herminia Torres, seeks judicial review
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of a final decision by
the Commissioner of Social Security
("Commissioner") denying her applications for
social security disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income. The plaintiff asks the court to
reverse the Commissioner's decision or, alternatively,
remand for a rehearing. (Doc. #19.) The Commissioner, in
turn, seeks an order affirming the decision. (Doc. #20.) For
the reasons set forth below, the plaintiff's motion is
granted and the defendant's motion is
April 4, 2013, the plaintiff filed applications alleging that
she had been disabled since October 1, 2012.
at 174-180.) The plaintiff's applications were denied
initially on June 3, 2013, and upon reconsideration. She
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ"). (R. at 110.) On May 20, 2015, a hearing
was held at which the plaintiff, represented by counsel,
testified. (R. at 24-63.) On July 27, 2015, the ALJ issued a
decision denying the plaintiff's claims. (R. at 7-23.) On
February 22, 2017, the Appeals Council declined review,
making the ALJ's decision final. (R. at 1-4.) This action
Standard of Review
court may reverse an ALJ's finding that a plaintiff is
not disabled only if the ALJ applied the incorrect legal
standards or if the decision is not supported by substantial
evidence. Brault v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 683 F.3d 443,
447 (2d Cir. 2012). In determining whether the ALJ's
findings "are supported by substantial evidence,
'the reviewing court is required to examine the entire
record, including contradictory evidence and evidence from
which conflicting inferences can be drawn.'"
Talavera v. Astrue, 697 F.3d 145, 151 (2d Cir. 2012)
(quoting Mongeur v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 1033, 1038 (2d
Cir. 1983)). "Substantial evidence is more than a mere
scintilla. . . . It means such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion." Brault, 683 F.3d at 447 (quotation marks
and citations omitted).
Commissioner of Social Security uses the following five-step
procedure to evaluate disability claims:
First, the [Commissioner] considers whether the claimant is
currently engaged in substantial gainful activity. If he is
not, the [Commissioner] next considers whether the claimant
has a "severe impairment" which 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 which is listed in Appendix 1
of the regulations. If the claimant has such an impairment,
the [Commissioner] will consider him disabled without
considering vocational factors such as age, education, and
work experience.... 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
[Commissioner] then determines whether there is other work
which the claimant could perform.
Rosa v. Callahan, 168 F.3d 72, 77 (2d Cir. 1999)
(internal alterations and citation omitted).
the five-step evaluation process, at step one, the ALJ found
that the plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since her alleged onset date of October 1, 2012. (R.
at 13.) At step two, the ALJ concluded that the plaintiff had
a severe impairment of seronegative rheumatoid arthritis.
(Id.) The ALJ found that the plaintiff's
hyperthyroidism, torticollis, cervical strain and
endometriosis were not severe impairments because they did
not meet the twelve month “durational
requirement.” As to the plaintiff's claims that she
suffered from lupus and Jaccoud's arthritis, the ALJ
stated that the record did not reflect that she had been
diagnosed with these impairments. (R. at 13). The ALJ found
that the plaintiff's depression was not a severe medical
three, the ALJ found that the plaintiff did not have an
impairment, either alone or in combination, that met or
medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, Subpart P, App'x 1. (R. at 15.) In particular,
the ALJ considered listing 14.09, inflammatory arthritis, and
observed that no treating or examining physician had provided
any opinion or suggested any findings to demonstrate that the
severity of the plaintiff's impairment met or medically
equaled the criterial of this or any other listed impairment.
next determined that the plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity ("RFC") to perform medium
as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(c) and §
416.967(c), except that she can engage in frequent handling
and fingering with the bilateral upper extremities.
(Id.) The ALJ concluded that the plaintiff was
capable of performing her past relevant work as a warehouse
worker and a child care monitor. (R. at 17-19.) The ALJ also
made "alternative findings for step five to the
sequential evaluation process.” (R. at 18-19).
Specifically, she found that, given the plaintiff's age,
education, work experience, and residual functional capacity,