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 cross-motion is denied, the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) is reversed, and the matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this order.
On April 30, 2008, plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act (the Act) and for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Act, alleging disability beginning on March 8, 2008. (Transcript (Tr.) at 10, 70-71, 129-35.) Plaintiff's application for benefits was denied initially and upon reconsideration. (Id. at 76-79, 88-92.) A hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on December 16, 2009. (Id. at 33-69.) Plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified at the administrative hearing. In a decision issued on December 23, 2009, the ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled. (Id. at 20.) The ALJ entered the following findings:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through September 30, 2009.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 8, 2008, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairment: bipolar disorder, with psychotic features (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(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, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following non-exertional limitations: the claimant can do simple, routine work involving 1 to 2 steps in a non-public setting; she can have occasional interaction with co-workers in a low stress setting defined as a setting with little to no change in the work routine from day to day; and she can do no fast paced production or quota driven type work.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on October 18, 1983 and was 24 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).
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 SSR 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, 404.1569(a), 416.969, and 416.969(a)).
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from March 8, 2008 through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)). (Id. at 12-20.)
On September 8, 2011, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision. (Id. at 1-3.) Plaintiff sought judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) by ...