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Jenkins v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

June 21, 2019

DENISE MICHELLE JENKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MAC R. McCOY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Denise Michelle Jenkin's Complaint, filed on April 19, 2018. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denying her claim for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits. The Commissioner filed the Transcript of the proceedings (hereinafter referred to as “Tr.” followed by the appropriate page number), and the parties filed a joint legal memorandum detailing their respective positions. For the reasons set out herein, the decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED and REMANDED pursuant to § 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         I. Social Security Act Eligibility, the ALJ Decision, and Standard of Review

         A. Eligibility

         The law defines disability as the inability to do any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result in death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months. 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505, 416.905. The impairment must be severe, making the claimant unable to do her previous work or any other substantial gainful activity that exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2), 1382c(a)(3); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505 - 404.1511, 416.905 - 416.911. Plaintiff bears the burden of persuasion through step four, while the burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987).

         B. Procedural History

         On December 14, 2015, Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits as well as an application for supplemental security income benefits. (Tr. at 103, 104, 208-221). Plaintiff asserted an onset date of January 1, 2014. (Id. at 208). Plaintiff's applications were denied initially on March 1, 2016, and on reconsideration on May 25, 2016. (Id. at 141, 142). Administrative Law Judge Eric Anschuetz (“ALJ”) held a hearing on April 5, 2017. (Id. at 48-77). The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on June 1, 2017. (Id. at 29-41). The ALJ found Plaintiff not to be under a disability from January 1, 2014, through the date of the decision. (Id. at 30).

         On February 22, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (Id. at 1-6). Plaintiff filed a Complaint (Doc. 1) in the United States District Court on April 19, 2018. This case is ripe for review. The parties consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge for all proceedings. (See Doc. 19).

         C. Summary of the ALJ's Decision

         An ALJ must follow a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine if a claimant has proven that she is disabled. Packer v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 542 Fed.Appx. 890, 891 (11th Cir. 2013) (citing Jones v. Apfel, 190 F.3d 1224, 1228 (11th Cir. 1999)).[1] An ALJ must determine whether the claimant: (1) is performing substantial gainful activity; (2) has a severe impairment; (3) has a severe impairment that meets or equals an impairment specifically listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1; (4) can perform her past relevant work; and (5) can perform other work of the sort found in the national economy. Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1237-40 (11th Cir. 2004). The claimant has the burden of proof through step four and then the burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five. Hines-Sharp v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 511 Fed.Appx. 913, 915 n.2 (11th Cir. 2013).

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements through December 31, 2017. (Tr. at 31). At step one of the sequential evaluation, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 1, 2014, the alleged onset date. (Id.). At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: “cervical degenerative disc disease C 5-8, panic disorder with agoraphobia as of April 1, 2016, asthma and obesity (20 [C.F.R. §§] 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).” (Id.). At step 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. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926). (Id. at 32).

         At step four, the ALJ determined the following as to Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”):

After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 [C.F.R. ยงยง] 404.1567(b) and 416.967 (b) except the claimant can lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. The claimant can stand and/or walk for a total of six hours during an eight-hour workday. The claimant can sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday. The claimant can occasionally climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, but her ability to climb ramps and stairs is frequently. Her ability to balance is unlimited and she can frequently kneel, crouch, and crawl; but only occasionally stoop. She must avoid concentrated exposure to dusts, odors, fumes, and gases; as well as extremes of heat and cold. She can have occasional interaction with supervisors, coworkers, and the public. The ...

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