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Leonor Ramirez v. Carolyn W. Colvin

May 14, 2013

LEONOR RAMIREZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheri Pym United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

On June 27, 2012, plaintiff Leonor Ramirez filed a complaint against the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"), seeking a review of a denial of a period of disability, disability insurance benefits ("DIB"), and supplemental security income ("SSI"). 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 court deems the matter suitable for adjudication without oral argument.

Plaintiff presents one issue for decision: whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") properly considered the opinion of the consultative examiner. Plaintiff's Memorandum in Support of Complaint ("P. Mem.") at 5-8; Defendant's Memorandum in Support of Defendant's Answer ("D. Mem.") at 2-6.

Having carefully studied, inter alia, the parties's moving papers, the Administrative Record ("AR"), and the decision of the ALJ, the court concludes that, as detailed herein, the ALJ failed to provide a clear and convincing reason why he rejected part of the consultative examiner's opinion. 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 fifty-one years old on the date of her February 10, 2011 administrative hearing, has a tenth grade education. AR at 39, 44, 97. Plaintiff has past relevant work as a hand packager. Id. at 50.

On May 26, 2009, plaintiff protectively filed an application for a period of disability and DIB. Id. at 97. On June 24, 2009, plaintiff filed an application for SSI. Id. at 25. The Commissioner denied plaintiff's application initially, after which she filed a request for a hearing. Id. at 55-60.

On February 10, 2011, plaintiff, appearing without counsel, testified at a hearing before the ALJ. Id. at 39-52. The ALJ also heard testimony from Gregory Jones, a vocational expert. Id. at 50-51. On February 17, 2011, the ALJ denied plaintiff's claim for benefits. Id. at 25-35.

Applying the well-known five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found, at step one, that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 7, 2005, the alleged onset date. Id. at 27.

At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff suffered from the following severe

impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine; diabetes mellitus; bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome; degenerative joint disease of the bilateral knees; and obesity. Id. at 28.

At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff's impairments, whether individually or in combination, did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the "Listings"). Id.

The ALJ then assessed plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC"), and *fn1 determined that she had the RFC to perform light work with the following limitations: lift up to twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; stand/walk/sit up to six hours in an eight-hour workday; only frequently climb stairs and ramps, stoop, and crouch; no climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; avoid exposure to hazards; frequently but not constantly handle and finger bilaterally; and avoid concentrated extreme exposure to heat and cold. Id. at 29. The ALJ found, at step four, that plaintiff could not perform her past relevant work. Id. at 33-34. At step five, the ALJ found that there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could ...


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