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Prichard v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Utah

June 18, 2018

ANGELA PRICHARD, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner of the Soc. Sec., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION & ORDER

          JUDGE BRUCE S. JENKINS U.S. SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 405(g), 1383(c)(3), seeks judicial review of the decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) denying his claims for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (the Act). After careful review of the entire record, the parties' briefs, the relevant law, and arguments presented at a hearing held on May 17, 2018, the Court FINDS that the decision of the Commissioner should be REMANDED.

         Procedural History

         Plaintiff Angela L. Prichard ("Plaintiff) filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) on April 16, 2014, and for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on May 23, 2014, alleging disability on March 7, 2014 (Certified Transcript of the Administrative Record "Tr." at 10). She alleged disability related to severe impairments of right breast cancer, degenerative disease of the spine, shoulders, hips, and knee, peripheral neuropathy, chronic pain syndrome, and obesity (Tr. 12, 70).

         Plaintiff meets insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through September 30, 2019, and has not engaged in substantial gainful activity ("SGA") since March 7, 2014, the alleged onset date (Tr. 12). The claims were denied initially on July 31, 2014, and upon reconsideration on January 15, 2015 (Tr. 10), then in a hearing decision dated January 23, 2017, by Administrative Law-Judge ("ALJ") Gary L. Vanderhoof (Tr. 28).

         The ALJ found that the Plaintiff has severe impairments of right breast cancer, mild degenerative changes of the left and right wrists, degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine, bilateral hip bursitis, bilateral partial shoulder tears and arthritis of the acromioclavicular joints, mild right knee degeneration, peripheral neuropathy, chronic pain syndrome, and obesity (Tr. 12), concluding that she does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (Tr. 12-13).

         The ALJ concluded that the Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except the Plaintiff can perform right overhead reaching on an occasional basis only; can handle, finger and feel bilaterally frequently; can lift and carry a maximum of twenty pounds, ten pounds frequently; can perform postural activities on an occasional basis; can stand, sit, and walk each for six hours; cannot climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; and cannot work at unprotected heights or around dangerous moving machinery (Tr. 13).

         Based on this RFC, the ALJ concluded that the Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work as a hair dresser, skilled work with a specific vocational preparation ("SVP") of 6 (Tr. 20). The Plaintiff was 50-years-old on the alleged date of onset for disability, had limited education, was able to communicate in English. The ALJ found that transferability of job skills was not material as. Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding of "not disabled, " and there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (Tr. 21). The Vocational Expert ("VE") testified that the Plaintiff could perform the requirements of representative occupations such as mail clerk, cashier, and production helper, all light, unskilled work with an SVP of 2 (Tr. 21-22).

         On September 8, 2017, the Appeals Council denied a request for review, making the ALJ's determination the final agency decision (T. 1) and the Plaintiff filed a timely suit with this Court.

         Standard of Review

         The standard of review for appeal of a Social Security disability determination is whether the final decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole and whether the correct legal standards were applied. See Williamson v. Barnhart, 350 F.3d 1097, 1098 (10th Cir. 2003). A decision "is not based on substantial evidence if it is overwhelmed by other evidence in the record or if there is a mere scintilla of evidence supporting it." Hamlin v. Barnhart, 365 F.3d 1208, 1214 (10th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted). Further, reversal is also ' appropriate where the ALJ either applies an incorrect legal standard or fails to demonstrate reliance on the correct legal standards. Hamlin, 365 F.3d at 1214 (citing Winfrey v. Chater, 92 F.3d 1017, 1019 (10th Cir. 1996)).

         Statement of Facts

         The Plaintiff was born January 15, 1964, was 50-years-old on the alleged date of onset for disability (defined as an individual closely approaching advanced age), has limited education, and is able to communicate in English (Tr. 21).

         Hearing Testimony

         During hearing, the Plaintiff testified she spends significant time in bed, up to 70%-80% of.her days, with difficulty walking down her long driveway with her dog (Tr. 47), has variable ability to walk, that she takes stairs sideways due to fear of falling (Tr. 57), and that she experienced symptoms of neuropathy during the hearing, with tingling feet (Tr. 60). She further testified to needing a recliner for ...


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