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Steigerwald v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

September 6, 2013

STEPHANIE L. STEIGERWALD, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

REPORT & RECOMMENDATION

GREG WHITE, Magistrate Judge.

Stephanie L. Steigerwald ("Plaintiff") challenges the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying her claim for a Period of Disability ("POD"), Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"), and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Titles II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423, 1381 et seq. This matter is before the Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and Local Rule 72.2(b).

For the reasons set forth below, it is recommended that the final decision of the Commissioner be VACATED and the case REMANDED.

I. Procedural History

On June 17, 2009, Plaintiff filed an application for POD, DIB, and SSI alleging a disability onset date of May 26, 2009. Her application was denied both initially and upon reconsideration.

On March 25, 2011, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") held a hearing during which Plaintiff, represented by counsel, and an impartial vocational expert ("VE") testified. (Tr. 37.) On April 22, 2011, the ALJ found Plaintiff was able to perform a significant number of jobs in the national economy and, therefore, was not disabled. (Tr. 45.) The ALJ's decision became final when the Appeals Council denied further review.

II. Evidence

Personal and Vocational Evidence

Age forty-one at the time of her administrative hearing, Plaintiff is a "younger" person under social security regulations. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563(c) & 416.963(c). (Tr. 44.) Plaintiff has a high school education and past relevant work in restaurant and customer service jobs. Id.

Hearing Testimony

At the hearing, Plaintiff testified as follows:

• She last worked in 2009. (Tr. 57.)
• She started using a cane in 2009. (Tr. 62.) An urgent care physician told her to use a cane if it helped. She said it helped significantly. (Tr. 60, 62.) She still cannot walk long distances, but the cane helps her "get around" and helps her balance. (Tr. 60, 62.)
• Her condition changed drastically in May of 2009. It has further deteriorated since then. She can no longer play sports or go places due to pain. She experiences stiffness in her shoulders and leg, spasms in her back, and sharp pain. (Tr. 61-62.)
• She can stand about ten minutes before experiencing pain. (Tr. 62-63.) "Changing positions for a second" helps relieve her pain. She can sit for half an hour before needing to change positions. However, she cannot simply alternate between sitting and standing, as she sometimes needs to lay down "to release all the pressure." She ...

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