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Beasley v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

June 9, 2017

TERESA BEASLEY PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Lanny King, Magistrate Judge United States District Court

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's complaint seeking judicial review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), of the final decision of the Commissioner denying her claim for Social Security disability benefits. The fact and law summaries of Plaintiff and Defendant are at Dockets 22 and 25, and the case is ripe for determination.

         The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned Magistrate Judge to determine this case, with any appeal lying before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Docket 14.

         Because the Court is unable to conduct a meaningful review of Plaintiff's claims due to internal inconsistency in the administrative law judge's (ALJ's) findings, the Court will REMAND this matter to the Commissioner for a new decision and additional findings.

         Authority for remand

         Plaintiff argues that, although they purport to allow her to perform light work, in fact, the ALJ's residual functional capacity (RFC) findings “support a sedentary exertional capacity as opposed to light.” Docket 22, p. 4. Therefore, according to the argument, the ALJ's RFC findings require a conclusion that she has a maximum exertional capacity for sedentary work. It follows (so the argument goes) that, in light of her age, education, and prior work experience, Plaintiff is entitled to an ultimate finding of disability pursuant to a direct application of Rule 201.14 of Appendix 2 of the regulations (the so-called medical-vocational guidelines, or grids). Docket 22, p. 2.

         For the reasons below, the ALJ's RFC findings as a whole are too internally inconsistent to draw any firm conclusion about Plaintiff's maximum exertional capacity. Because the difference between an RFC to perform either sedentary or light work may determine the outcome of this case, a remand is required. See Villarreal v. Comm'r, No. SA-16-CA-272-FB, WL 8202967, at *11 (W.D. Tex. Nov. 22, 2016) (collecting authorities for the proposition that “[w]hen apparent internal inconsistencies in an ALJ's [RFC] assessment may have an outcome determinative impact upon a social security determination under the Medical Vocational Guideline grids, courts recognize that a remand to clarify these inconsistencies is often necessary”); see also Deveraeaux v. Comm'r, No. 12-cv-1168-WJM, WL 2393075, at *9 (D. Col. May 31, 2013) (“[B]ecause of the [internal] inconsistency [in the ALJ's RFC findings], the Court is left with no choice but to remand this case to the Commissioner for rehearing so that material issues to Plaintiff's disability claim may be reconciled”).

         The ALJ's RFC Findings

          The ALJ found that Plaintiff has the following residual functional capacity (RFC):

Exertional limitations (based on definition of “light” work in Social Security Ruling (SSR) 83-10, 1983 WL 31251): After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the [RFC] to perform light work … meaning the claimant can occasionally lift 20 pounds and frequently lift 10 pounds, and can stand, sit, and walk for six hours out of an 8- hour day.
Additional postural and other limitations: She requires a sit/stand option where she can sit for 30 minutes, then stand for 5-15 minutes, and is limited to walking ½ block at a time. She can occasionally handle objects with her bilateral hands, frequently reach and reach overhead, and frequently climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. She can occasionally climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds, crawl, and bend.
Mental limitations: She is limited to simple, repetitive, unskilled tasks, can occasionally interact with the public, supervisors and co-workers, can frequently respond to routine changes in the work setting, but will be off-task 5% of each workday due to the combination of her impairments.

(ALJ's decision, administrative record (AR), p. 14).

         The ALJ's RFC findings are ...


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