United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON
THE PLEADINGS AND ON THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR AN ORDER
AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER
M. Spector United States Magistrate Judge.
action, filed under § 205(g) of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeks review of a final decision by
the Commissioner of Social Security [“SSA”]
denying the plaintiff disability insurance benefits
January 5, 2015, the plaintiff filed an application for SSDI
claiming that he has been disabled since December 29, 2014
due to a combination of medical conditions collectively
referred to as “VATER Syndrome, ” acute
lymphoblastic leukemia, in remission, bladder dysfunction and
neurogenic bladder. (Certified Transcript of Administrative
Proceedings, dated July 22, 2018 [“Tr.”] Tr. 216;
see Tr. 226). The plaintiff's application was
denied initially and upon reconsideration (Tr. 166-69,
172-74), and on June 20, 2017, a hearing was held before ALJ
Eskunder Boyd at which the plaintiff and a vocational expert
testified. (Tr. 112-42). Ten days later, on June 30, 2017,
the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision denying the
plaintiff's claim for benefits (Tr. 13-25), and, on July
10, 2017, the plaintiff filed a request for review of the
hearing decision. (Tr. 6; see Tr. 8-9). On April 4,
2018, the Appeals Council denied the request, thereby
rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. (Tr. 1-4).
4, 2018, the plaintiff filed his complaint in this pending
action (Doc. No. 1), and on June 14, 2018, the parties
consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate
Judge, and this case was transferred to this Magistrate
Judge. (Doc. No. 15). On August 10, 2018, the defendant filed
her answer and the administrative transcript, dated July 22,
2018. (Doc. No. 15). On October 9, 2018, the plaintiff filed
his Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. No. 19), with
Statement of Material Facts (Doc. No. 20), and brief in
support (Doc. No. 21 [“Pl.'s Mem.”]). On
December 10, 2018, the defendant filed her Motion to Affirm
(Doc. No. 22), and brief in support (Doc. No. 22-1
[“Def.'s Mem.”]). On December 19, 2018, the
plaintiff filed a reply brief. (Doc. No. 23).
reasons stated below, the plaintiff's Motion for Judgment
on the Pleadings (Doc. No. 19) is granted in large part
such that this case is remanded for further proceedings
consistent with this Ruling, and the defendant's
Motion to Affirm (Doc. No. 22) is denied in large part
and granted in limited part.
Court presumes the parties' familiarity with the
plaintiff's medical history, which is discussed in the
Stipulation of Facts (Doc. No. 20). Though the Court has
reviewed the entirety of the medical record, it cites only
the portions of the record that are necessary to explain this
HEARING TESTIMONY AND NON-MEDICAL EVIDENCE
date of the hearing in June 2017, the plaintiff was 23 years
old, and he was living with his mother. (Tr. 87, 90, 118).
The plaintiff held seasonal jobs from September 2012 through
December 2014 as an electrician apprentice, stock clerk,
delivery helper, and delivery driver. (Tr. 95; see
Tr. 96-101). The plaintiff explained that his last job, as an
electrician apprentice, ended because the plaintiff had to
take off so much time. (Tr. 121). In 2016, the plaintiff
worked briefly at Vitamin World, but he “had too many
accidents” and had to take “a lot of time off
work.” (Tr. 129). He worked for a temporary placement
service but had to stop working when he was hospitalized with
a bladder infection. (Tr. 130). Additionally, he worked
briefly for a collection agency, but had an “accident
in [his] pants and . . . walked home.” (Tr. 131).
plaintiff described his condition as a “life long
illness, that became an issue once [he was] out of school and
entering the workforce. [He does] not have bowel control, now
[his] bladder is failing. [He] need[s] to be close to a rest
room at all times. [He has] accidents.” (Tr. 88). His
daily routine includes irrigating his stool, which takes
about an hour-and-a-half to two hours, and cleaning a
catheter, which he does every one-to-three hours. (Tr. 127).
The irrigation involves “a lot of solutions and
supplies and tubes[, ]” so it is something that the
plaintiff must do at home. (Tr. 131-32). If he has an
accident during the day, which he said he has
“[f]requently[, ]” he must irrigate again. (Tr.
result of having to use a catheter, the plaintiff gets
“a lot of infections in [his] bladder.” (Tr.
128). In 2015, he underwent surgery that improved his ability
to empty his bladder completely. (Tr. 126).
addition to his incontinence issues, the plaintiff reported
that he is limited by his “back issues[.]” (Tr.
88). His “back issues do not allow [him] to do the
climbing, crawling, bending[, or] lifting involved in any of
the jobs [he] . . . attempted.” (Tr. 88). According to
the plaintiff, he would like to return to school and
“perhaps pursue a degree that would allow [him] a
career [he] could do from home.” (Tr. 91).
vocational expert testified that an individual limited to
light work, who can never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds,
but can occasionally climb stairs and ramps, balance, stoop
and crouch, but can never kneel or crawl, could not perform
the past work performed by the plaintiff. (Tr. 134). An
individual with those limitations, however, could perform the
work of a laundry worker, a production assembler, or a small
parts assembler. (Tr. 134-35). If such a person also took the
normal breaks of a fifteen-minute morning break, a half hour
lunch break, and a fifteen-minute afternoon break, such a
person could perform those jobs. (Tr. 135-36). If a person
needed a two-to-three-minute break every three hours, in
addition to the customary break periods, that would be an
“accommodation” that would not impact the
person's overall ability to perform a certain job. (Tr.
136). If a person was subject to “unpredictable breaks
or absences[, ]” the job would not be affected if the
break was only one or two minutes, but, if the person was
off-task for ten percent of the time or his
“productivity got [ten] percent or more below the
expected norm because of these incidences, he would be
terminated fairly quickly[.]” (Tr. 137). Additionally,
work would be precluded if, in addition to being absent two
days or more, the person was more than an hour late or needed
to leave work an hour or more early, twice each month. (Tr.
THE ALJ'S DECISION
the five-step evaluation process,  the ALJ found that the
plaintiff met the insured status requirements through June
30, 2016 (Tr. 18), and that the plaintiff did not engage in
substantial gainful activity during the period from his
alleged onset date of December 29, 2014, through his date
last insured of June 30, 2016. (Tr. 19, citing 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1571 et seq.).
two, the ALJ concluded that the plaintiff had the severe
impairments of spinal scoliosis, VATER syndrome, status post
cystourethroscopy with placement of suprapubic tube, and
neurogenic bladder (Tr. 19, citing 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(c)), but that the plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of a listed impairment in 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 19-20, citing 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).
Specifically, the ALJ concluded that the plaintiff's back
condition did not meet Listing 1.04 (Disorders of the Spine),
and that the plaintiff's VATER syndrome, status post
cystourethroscopy with placement of suprapubic tube and
neurogenic bladder, did not meet Listing 5.06 (Inflammatory
Bowel Disease). (Tr. 19).
three, the ALJ found that, “[a]fter careful
consideration of the entire record, ” the plaintiff had
the residual functional capacity [“RFC”] to
perform light work, as defined in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1567(b), except he could never climb ladders, ropes or
scaffolds; he was limited to occasionally climbing stairs and
ramps, balancing, stooping and crouching; and, he should
never kneel or crawl. (Tr. 20). Additionally, the ALJ stated
that the plaintiff required one break every three hours,
lasting two-to-three-minutes. (Tr. 20).
concluded that, through his date last insured, the plaintiff
was unable to perform any past relevant work (Tr. 23, citing
20 C.F.R. § 404.1565), but there were jobs that existed
in significant numbers that the plaintiff could have
performed, including the job of a laundry worker, production
assembler, and small parts assembler. (Tr. 24-25).
Accordingly, the ALJ found that the plaintiff was not under a
disability at any time from December ...