This social security action was submitted to the court without oral argument for ruling on plaintiff's amended motion for summary judgment and defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, plaintiff's motion is granted, the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner) is reversed, and the matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this order.
On April 12, 2006, plaintiff Cristy McDowell applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (the Act), alleging that she became disabled in February 2005. (Transcript (Tr.) at 77-82, 85.) Plaintiff claimed disability based on migraines, lower back pain, nerve problems in her right leg, and depression. (Tr. at 90.) Plaintiff's application was denied initially in November 2006 and upon reconsideration in July 2007. (Tr. at 56-61, 63-68.) At the hearing held on April 25, 2008, plaintiff appeared without a representative and testified, as did her witness, Larry Gillam. (Tr. at 31-53, 69-76.) In a decision dated September 18, 2008, the ALJ found plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. at 8-14.) The ALJ entered the following findings:
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 12, 2006, the application date (20 CFR 416.920(b) and 416.971 et seq.).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: a seizure disorder; a history of Migraine headaches; and degenerative joint disease (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
3. The claimant has not had 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 had the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except for the following: unable to climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; and unable to work in especially hazardous settings, such as work at unprotected heights or near dangerous, moving machinery.
5. The claimant has been unable to perform her past relevant work (20 CFR 416.965).
6. The claimant was born January 9, 1968 and was 38 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 at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 416.964).
8. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is "not disabled," whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
9. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there have been jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant could have performed (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 April 12, 2006, the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.920(g)). (Tr. at 10-14.)
In November 2008, plaintiff obtained counsel, who requested review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. at 15-18.) On March 11, 2009, the Appeals Council denied the request for review, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. at 1-4.) Plaintiff sought judicial review pursuant to ...