This social security action was submitted to the court, without oral argument, for ruling on plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, plaintiff's motion is granted, defendant's motion is denied, the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) is reversed, and this matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this order.
On August 19, 2004, plaintiff applied for Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (Act), alleging disability beginning May 1, 2003.*fn1 (Transcript (Tr.) at 10.) The application was denied initially on February 11, 2005, and upon reconsideration on September 21, 2005. (Id.) Plaintiff filed an untimely request for a hearing but established good cause for the late filing based upon her incarceration in state prison.*fn2 (Tr. at 28-31.) The agency lost plaintiff's file and reconstructed it to the extent possible. (Tr. at 10, 99.) A hearing was held before an administrative law judge (ALJ) on May 2, 2007, at which plaintiff was represented by Bruce Hagel, Esq. (Tr. at 180-218.) Plaintiff testified briefly at the hearing. (Id.) In a decision dated September 5, 2007, the ALJ determined that plaintiff had not been disabled since August 19, 2004, the date of her application for SSI. (Tr. at 10-18.) The ALJ entered the following findings:
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 19, 2004, the application date (20 CFR 416.920(b) and 416.971 et seq.).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: chronic knee pain with mild osteoarthritis, back pain consistent with likely mild osteoarthritis, and obesity (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
3. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
4. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform medium work, i.e., lift/carry 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently, and sit, stand or walk for six hours in an eight-hour day.
5. The claimant has no past relevant work (20 CFR 416.965). 6. The claimant was born on October 17, 1966 and was 37 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.963).
7. The claimant has a limited education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 416.964).
8. Transferability of job skills is not an issue because the claimant does not have past relevant work (20 CFR 416.968).
9. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 416.960(c) and 416.966).
10. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since August 19, 2004, the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.920(g)).
On September 26, 2007, plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. at 6.) The Appeals Council denied the request on February 7, 2008. (Tr. at 3-5.) Plaintiff sought judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § ...