Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act. The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons discussed below, the court grants plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, denies the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment, and remands the case for payment of benefits.
Plaintiff formally applied for DIB on December 19, 2007, alleging that he had been disabled since October 25, 2007. Administrative Record ("AR") 81, 150. Plaintiff's application was initially denied on March 27, 2008, and upon reconsideration on November 19, 2008. Id. at 89, 97. On May 21, 2009, a hearing was held before administrative law judge ("ALJ") James Mitchell. Id. at 28. Plaintiff was represented by counsel at the hearing, at which he and a vocational expert (VE) testified. Id. at 28-29.
The ALJ's November 25, 2009 decision found that plaintiff was not disabled at any time from the date of alleged onset of disability through the date of the decision.*fn1 Id. at 15-27. The ALJ made the following specific findings:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2012.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 25, 2007, the alleged onset date (20 CFG 404.1571 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative joint disease of the left knee, carpal tunnel syndrom, obesity, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
4. 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 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a). The claimant is able to lift 10 pounds occasionally and 5 pounds frequently. The claimant can stoop occasionally and sit frequently. The claimant is slightly limited in attention, concentration, understanding, and memory. His vision is diminished, but correctable and he is unlimited in hearing. He is slightly limited in overhead reaching with his right, dominant feature, with slightly meaning 6 hours or less per shift. The claimant's fine and gross manipulative abilities are slightly limited with respect to both extremities. He is slightly limited in his ability to perform simple, routine tasks. He has environmental limitations requiring occasional medication, with occasional meaning 3 times a day or less. The claimant can have unlimited contact with the public and requires only occasional supervision. He also has slight to moderate pain. ...
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565). ...
7. The claimant was born [in] 1968 and was 39 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1520(f)).
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564).
9. 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 SRR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. 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 404.1569 and 404.1569(a)). ...
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from October 25, 2007 through the date of this decision.
Plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's decision. Id. at 4-11. However, on August 23, 2010, the Appeals Council denied review, leaving the ALJ's decision as the final ...