The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheri Pym United States Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
On November 2, 2011, plaintiff Sheila Ann Bauer filed a complaint against defendant Michael J. Astrue, seeking a review of a denial of Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits. Both plaintiff and defendant have consented to proceed for all purposes before the assigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). The parties' briefing is now complete, and the court deems the matter suitable for adjudication without oral argument.
Four issues are presented for decision here: (1) whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") properly considered the evidence of a medically determinable severe mental impairment; (2) whether the ALJ properly evaluated plaintiff's credibility and subjective symptoms; (3) whether the ALJ properly discounted a lay witness's statements; and (4) whether the ALJ properly determined, at step four, that plaintiff is capable of performing past relevant work. Pl's Mem. at 3-13, 13-16, 16-19, 20-21; Def.'s Mem. at 2-6, 6-9, 9-10, 10-11; Reply at 1-5, 5-8, 8-9, 9-10.
Having carefully studied, inter alia, the parties' papers and the Administrative Record ("AR"), the court finds that, as detailed herein, the ALJ erred in evaluating the medical evidence. Because, under the circumstances here, this finding is dispositive of the instant matter, the court does not reach the remaining issues. The court therefore remands this matter to the Commissioner in accordance with the principles and instructions enunciated in this Memorandum Opinion and Order.
II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiff, who was forty-three years old on the date of her December 16, 2009 administrative hearing, has a ninth grade education and trade school training. AR at 50-51; see AR at 128. Her past relevant work includes employment as a stock clerk. Id. at 52-53.
On April 28, 2008, plaintiff applied for SSI, alleging that she has been disabled since February 20, 2008 due to bipolar disorder, anxiety, major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and insomnia. See AR at 124, 130. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, after which she filed a request for a hearing. Id. at 58, 59, 60-64, 65, 66-70, 71-72.
On December 16, 2009, plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing before the ALJ. AR at 42-52, 55. The ALJ also heard testimony from Gregory S. Jones, a vocational expert ("VE"). Id. at 52-55; see also id. at 99-100. On January 13, 2010, the ALJ denied plaintiff's request for benefits. Id. at 24-31.
Applying the well-known five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found, at step one, that plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 28, 2008, the date she applied for SSI. AR at 26.
At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff suffers from medically determinable impairments consisting of dysthymic disorder and anxiety disorder, but concluded that these impairments are non-severe. See AR at 26. The ALJ nonetheless *fn1 proceeded through steps three and four. Id.
At step three, the ALJ determined that the evidence does not demonstrate that plaintiff's impairments, either individually or in combination, meet or medically equal the severity of any listing set forth in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
The ALJ then assessed plaintiff's residual functional ...