United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTION TO REVERSE THE DECISION OF THE
COMMISSIONER AND MOTION TO AFFIRM THE DECISION OF THE
A. BOLDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Ramos filed for Social Security disability insurance benefits
under Title II of the Social Security Act, which
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Jason
Mastrangelo denied. Social Security Transcripts by Social
Security Administration, ECF No. 14 (“Tr.”), at
Ramos has now filed a motion to reverse the ALJ's
disability determination. Motion to Reverse the Decision of
the Commissioner, ECF No. 21 (“Mot. to Reverse”).
response, Nancy Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (“Acting Commissioner”),
moved for an order affirming the ALJ's decision. Motion
to Affirm the Decision of the Commissioner, ECF No. 22
(“Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Affirm”).
following reasons, the Court DENIES the
motion to reverse the Acting Commissioner's decision and
GRANTS the motion to affirm the Acting
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
December 16, 2015, Ms. Ramos applied for Title II Social
Security disability, alleging her injuries prevented her from
working as of November 12, 2015. Application for Disability
Insurance, Tr. at 156. In her application, Ms. Ramos listed
osteoarthritis in both ankles, heal spurs, fibromyalgia,
migraines, herniated/bulging disk in back, fatigue, and
anxiety. Disability Report, Tr. at 181.
January 24, 2016, Ms. Ramos submitted a daily activity report
to the Commissioner. Activities of Daily Living, Tr. at 190.
She reported taking her daughter to school and engaging in
limited household chores because she does not want to
over-exert herself due to fibromyalgia. Id. Because
of the pain, Ms. Ramos attested that she was unable to stand,
sit, or walk for extended periods, and she had trouble
sleeping. Id. at 191. Ms. Ramos alleges that the
pain had limited her to two household chores per day.
Id. at 192. Ms. Ramos also attested that her
conditions limited her ability to lift, squat, bend, stand,
reach, walk, sit, kneel, climb stairs, complete task, use her
hands, concentrate, and remember details. Id. at
March 25, 2016, the State of Connecticut Bureau of
Rehabilitations Services conducted a disability determination
on Ms. Ramos. Disability Determination Exam, Tr. at 379. Dr.
Joseph Guarnaccia concluded that as a “42 year old
woman with lower back pain, fibromyalgia and other joint pain
with limitations in the use of her arms and hands. She would
have difficulty performing physical work related to
activities requiring walking, standing, sitting, lifting,
carrying [, ] handling, [and] bending.” Id. at
April 5, 2016, the Acting Commissioner determined that Ms.
Ramos was not disabled. Disability Determination Explanation,
Tr. at 67. The Acting Commissioner determined that Ms. Ramos
had severe joint, fibromyalgia, spine, and migraine
impairments. Tr. at 61. The Acting Commissioner also
concluded that Ms. Ramos could occasionally lift twenty
pounds, frequently lift ten pounds, stand or walk for six
hours of an eight-hour workday, sit for six hours in an
eight-hour workday, and had unlimited use of her hands and
feet to operate controls. Id. at 63. The Acting
Commissioner then concluded that Ms. Ramos could occasionally
climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or
crawl but should never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds.
Id. at 64. The Acting Commissioner next concluded
that Ms. Ramos could work as a laundry folder, weigher, and
bagger garment. Id. at 67. The Acting Commissioner
finally determined that Ms. Ramos's “condition
results in some limitations in [her] ability to perform work
related activities, ” but “that [her] condition
is not severe enough to keep [her] from working.”
31, 2016, the Acting Commissioner denied Ms. Ramos's
reconsideration for the same reasons. Disability
Determination for Reconsideration, Tr. at 70-82.
15, 2016, Ms. Ramos then made a written request for a
hearing. Request for Hearing by Administrative Law Judge, Tr.
March 22, 2017, Administrative Law Judge Mastrangelo held a
hearing on Ms. Ramos's disability claim. Hearing
Transcript, Tr. at 28.
Ms. Ramos's Testimony
hearing, Ms. Ramos testified that she had not worked since
November 2015. Hearing Transcript, Tr. at 33. Ms. Ramos
testified that she was forty-three years old, had a
twelve-year-old daughter, finished the eleventh grade, and
had a Connecticut driver's license. Id. at
32-33. She also testified that she did not have any
difficulty driving. Id. at 33. Ms. Ramos testified
that she formerly worked as a bus driver and cleaner.
Id. at 34-35. In those roles, Ms. Ramos testified
that she did not have to lift or carry anything weighing more
than fifteen pounds. Id. at 35.
Ramos also testified that she would be unable to work those
jobs now because of back and leg injuries. Id.
Specifically, she stopped working in her last job as a bus
driver because she could not drive for hours on the bus.
Id. at 45. In addition, Ms. Ramos testified that she
would not be able to tolerate an eight-hour-per-day job
because of pain-mostly in her joints, mainly in hands, knees,
and neck, due to fibromyalgia. Id. at 36-37.
Moreover, physical therapy and medication have not helped Ms.
Ramos manage the pain, but she had never used a cane or
walker to walk. Id. 37-38.
Ramos testified that her level of pain ranged, depending on
the day, with the worst days resulting in her not leaving bed
for up to two days. Id. at 41. Ms. Ramos testified
that these days happen up to twice a month and last for a
full day. Id. at 42. Ms. Ramos alleges that the pain
prevents her from standing for more than a half hour, sitting
for more than forty minutes, or lifting heavy objects.
Id. at 45.
Ramos then testified that she had difficulty clothing
herself, attends church three times per week, but often had
issues with fatigue. Id. at 39.
Ramos also noted that she does not see a psychiatrist or
therapist for her depression and anxiety. Id. at 46.
Ms. Ramos's disability hearing, Larry Takki, vocational
counselor, testified as the Acting Commissioner's
vocational expert. Hearing Transcript, Tr. at 46. Mr. Takki
testified that someone with Ms. Ramos's current
limitations would prohibit her from her past work as a bus
driver. Id. at 47-48. Mr. Takki, however, testified
that someone with Ms. Ramos's limitations would be able
to work the following jobs: as a price marker, which had 469,
000 jobs in the United States; as an electronics
sub-assembler, which had 180, 000 jobs in the United States;
and as a table worker, which had 400, 000 jobs in the United
States. Id. at 48-49.
Takki also testified that if someone had an upper extremity
fingering limitation with their dominant hand, that person
would likely not be able to meet the industry standards for
those professions. Id. at 49. When limited to light
or sedentary work, Mr. Takki testified that there would be no
jobs that could accommodate the extremity fingering
limitation. Id. at 50.
individual would be unable to carry ten pounds occasionally,
less than ten pounds frequently, and was unable to sit,
stand, or walk eight hours in an eight-hour workday, then
that individual, with any factor individually and
collectively, would be precluded from all work. Id.
someone was off task more than ten to fifteen percent of
their time, then Mr. Takki testified that limitation would
preclude all work. Id. at 51.
cross-examination, Ms. Ramos's attorney only asked about
whether the same sit and stand limitations applied to the
table worker as to the vocations. Id. at 52.
The ALJ's Decision
considering the evidence, the Administrative Law Judge Jason
Mastrangelo concluded that Ms. Ramos was not disabled. Tr. at
11. In the decision, the ALJ made the following eleven
1. Ms. Ramos met the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act and will continue to meet the
requirements until December 31, 2020, Tr. at 12;
2. Ms. Ramos had not engaged in substantially gainful
activity since November 12, 2015, Id. (citing 20 CFR
3. Ms. Ramos had fibromyalgia, a spine disorder, right-knee
bursitis,  and right medial epicondylitis,
which have a severe impact on Ms. Ramos's ability to
perform basic work related activities but were not enough,
either individually or in combination, for an impairment
determination under Section 12.00 of Appendix 1, Id.
at 12-15 (citing 20 CFR 404.1520(c));
4. Ms. Ramos does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1, Id. at 15;
5. Ms. Ramos had the residual functional capacity to perform
less than the full range of light work defined by 20 CFR
404.1567(b), Ms. Ramos was limited to lifting and carrying
twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently, she was
restricted to standing and walking for four hours of an
eight- hour workday and sitting for six hours in an
eight-hour workday, Ms. Ramos was limited to occasional
climbing of rams and stairs, Ms. Ramos must never climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, Ms. Ramos was restricted to
occasional balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and
crawling, and Ms. Ramos must avoid concentrated exposure to
extreme cold, heights, and hazardous machines, ...