United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ANNA L. GARZON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Defendant.
ORDER REMANDING DECISION OF COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL
Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge
Anna Garzon asserts that she is disabled and unable to work
due to several conditions. She filed this action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking review of a final decision of
defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social
Security, who denied Garzon's application for disability
benefits. Garzon has filed a motion to reverse the
Commissioner's decision (Doc. #22), and the Commissioner
has filed a motion to affirm the Commissioner's decision
(Doc. #24) For the reasons set forth below, I will grant the
motion to remand and deny the motion to affirm the decision
of the Commissioner.
refer to the transcripts the Commissioner provided.
See Doc. #21-1 through Doc. #21-16. Garzon filed an
application for social security disability income on March
24, 2016, alleging a disability beginning on February 2,
2016. Doc. #21-7 at 3-4. Garzon's claim was initially
denied on July 6, 2016, Doc. #21-8 at 3, and denied again
upon reconsideration on August 17, 2016, id. at 9.
She then filed a request for a hearing on September 6, 2016.
Id. at 12.
appeared and testified at a hearing in New Haven before
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Eskunder Boyd on September 1,
2017. Doc. #21-6 at 44. Garzon was not represented by
counsel. Id. at 46. On December 18, 2017, the ALJ
issued a decision concluding that Garzon was not disabled
within the meaning of the Social Security Act. See
Doc. #21-2 at 36. The Appeals Council denied Garzon's
request for review on March 28, 2018. Id. at 2.
Garzon then filed this case on May 10, 2018. Doc. #1.
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 his previous
work but cannot, considering his 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
his 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 he 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 also20 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. See20 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 Garzon was not disabled within the meaning of
the Social Security Act. At Step One, the ALJ concluded that
Garzon met the insured status requirements of the Social
Security Act through December 31, 2021, and that she had
engaged in substantial gainful activity from January of 2016
to February 1, 2017-a time period that extended past the date
of her alleged onset of disability. Doc. #21-2 at 29. Because
there was a time period after February 1, 2017, when Garzon
had not engaged in substantial gainful activity, the ALJ
continued his analysis as to that period. Ibid.
Two, the ALJ found that Garzon experienced the following
severe impairments: “Status Post Bilateral Knee
Arthroplasty; Fibromyalgia (FM); Obesity; and Depressive
Disorder.” Ibid. The ALJ did not take note of
any non-severe impairments. Ibid.
Three, the ALJ determined that Garzon 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.
then found that Garzon “had the residual functional
capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR
416.967(b) except she is able to stand and/or walk up to four
hours and sit for six hours and she requires a sit/stand
option defined as sitting for 30 minutes, alternate to the
standing position for five minutes and then resume sitting.
She is unable to climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds but may
occasionally climb stairs and ramps, balance, stoop, and
crouch, but never kneel or crawl. She is able to frequently
handle and finger. There should be no work with exposure to
temperature extremes. The claimant is able to perform simple
and detailed, but not complex tasks and she is able to
sustain concentration, persistence, or pace for three to four
hour segments with frequent interaction with coworkers and
the public.” Id. at 31-32. At Step Four, the
ALJ concluded that ...