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Eastwood v. Berryhill

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

July 8, 2019

ANN MARGARET EASTWOOD PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          LANNY KING, MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         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 Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. The fact and law summaries of Plaintiff and Defendant are at Dockets # 15 and 16. 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 # 13.)

         The Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ's”) finding that Plaintiff suffers from no severe, or vocationally significant, manipulative limitation is not supported by substantial evidence. The ALJ's findings regarding Plaintiff's borderline intellectual functioning, knee impairment, and diabetic neuropathy are insufficient to facilitate effective and meaningful review. Therefore, the Court will REMAND this matter to the Commissioner for a new decision.

         Background facts and procedural history

         PLAINTIFF was born in 1970 and has no past relevant work. (Administrative Record (“AR”) at 37.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff suffers from severe, or vocationally significant, borderline intellectual functioning (AR at 23), which requires, among other things, that work instructions be given to Plaintiff orally or through physical demonstration (as opposed to being given in writing):

[Plaintiff] can perform simple, routine, repetitive work tasks, meaning tasks, which apply commonsense understanding to carry out instructions furnished orally, or through demonstration, with the ability to deal with problems involving several concrete variables in or from standardized situations. … The claimant should not work in a fast-paced or production- based work environment, but she can do entry level or goal-oriented work.

(AR at 26.)

         In light of Plaintiff's mental limitations, the vocational expert (“VE”) indicated that Plaintiff would likely be unable to perform a significant No. of jobs in the national economy if she “could only occasionally use the hands for fine manipulative tasks such as fingering and handling.” (AR at 82.)

         PLAINTIFF testified that she has had carpal tunnel surgeries on both wrists, which helped, but she continues to experience wrist pain and is sometimes unable to use her hands and manipulate objects for more than 30 minutes at a time:

ALJ: And what kind of problems were you having that caused that surgery?
PLAINTIFF: Carpal tunnel in both of them. They were - they get numb and tingly and they, like, spasm. They - I don't know. They get real stiff on their own. It's hard to - I don't really know how to describe how they do. But after the surgery, it did help some. I still occasionally get the numbness and the tingliness [sic] and they do ache. If - like, I 'm trying to make Christmas present s and I can only work on them for, you know, maybe 30 minutes and then I have to stop because my hands hurt so bad.

(AR at 56.)

         The ALJ's written decision acknowledged that Plaintiff's “history is significant for carpal tunnel syndrome with release on the left in May 2013 and on the right in October 2013.” (AR at 24, 35.) However, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffers from no severe, or vocationally significant, manipulative limitations. (AR at 26.) In fact, the ALJ was “not persuaded to find any (emphasis added) manipulative limitations.” (AR at 35.)

         The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff is not disabled because she retains the ability to perform a significant No. of jobs in the national economy such as bottling line ...


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