United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
TRACY L. EHRLICH, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
KIMBERLY A. JOLSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Tracy L. Ehrlich, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) for review of a final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying her
application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”), a period of disability, and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”). For the reasons that
follow, the Commissioner's nondisability finding is
REVERSED and this case is
REMANDED to the Commissioner and
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) under Sentence
Four of § 405(g).
applied for DIB, a period of disability, and SSI on October
16, 2013, alleging disability beginning October 1, 2011, due
to numerous physical and mental impairments. (Doc. 14-2, Tr.
27, PAGEID # 92). An Administrative Law Judge (the
“ALJ”) held a hearing (Id., Tr. 42-62,
PAGEID # 107-27) after Plaintiff's application was denied
initially (Doc. 14-3, Tr. 65- 78, PAGEID #: 131-44) and upon
reconsideration (Id., Tr. 95-110, PAGEID #: 161-76).
On January 29, 2016, the ALJ denied benefits in a written
decision. (Doc. 14-2, Tr. 24-41, PAGEID # 89-106). That
decision became final when the Appeals Council denied review
on January 3, 2017. (Id., Tr. 1-6, PAGEID #: 66-71).
filed this case on March 3, 2017 (Doc. 1), and the
Commissioner filed the administrative record on June 5, 2017
(Doc. 14). Plaintiff filed a Statement of Specific Errors on
July 19, 2017 (Doc. 15), the Commissioner responded on
September 1, 2017 (Doc. 16), and Plaintiff replied on
September 18, 2017 (Doc. 17).
Relevant Medical Records
relevant medical records are summarized below.
Relevant Hearing Testimony
testified that she suffers from rheumatoid arthritis in her
joints, hands, knees, hips, and feet. (Doc. 14-2, Tr. 48, 55,
PAGEID #: 113, 120). She also testified that she had an EMG
performed on her legs, back, and feet to investigate nerve
damage. (Id., Tr. 48-49, PAGEID #: 113-14). She
stated she is borderline diabetic, and that she “was
heavy” before she “lost a lot of weight.”
(Tr. 49, PAGEID #: 114). Plaintiff testified that she does
not have much control over her hands, and she had surgery
performed on both of her hands, as well as her elbow, within
the last three years. (Id.). She stated that while
the surgery helped her hands, it did not help her elbow.
(Id., Tr. 50, PAGEID #: 115). She experiences
“chronic pain daily.” (Id., Tr. 55,
PAGEID #: 120).
can pick up and carry a soda bottle, but is unable to open
one; she needs two hands to carry a gallon of milk.
(Id., Tr. 50, PAGEID #: 115). Standing and walking
is problematic, but she can walk a little over a block before
she becomes short of breath. (Id., Tr. 51, PAGEID #:
116). She experiences breathing problems, and uses a
“puffer” once or twice a week. (Id.).
Plaintiff can stay seated for a half hour at most and spends
most of her day in bed. (Id., Tr. 52, PAGEID #:
117). She can focus on one task for about twenty minutes
before she needs to move around. (Id., Tr. 54,
PAGEID #: 119). Plaintiff testified that her pain prevents
her from finishing household chores. (Id., Tr. 55,
PAGEID #: 120).
Vocational Expert (the “VE”) testified, inter
alia, that an individual of Plaintiff's age,
education, and work experience limited to only frequent
handling, fingering, and feeling bilaterally; lifting and
carrying ten pounds frequently; sitting 45 minutes at a time
for six of eight hours; and standing and walking for 30
minutes at a time for three of eight hours would be limited
to sedentary unskilled work. (Id., Tr. 57-58, PAGEID
The ALJ's Decision
found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act through December 31, 2016. (Doc.
14-2, Tr. 27, PAGEID #: 92). The ALJ also found that
Plaintiff engaged in substantial gainful activity in 2012,
when Plaintiff reported $12, 481 in earnings, but that there
has been a continuous 12-month period during which Plaintiff
did not engage in substantial gainful activity.
(Id., Tr. 29, PAGEID #: 94). The ALJ determined that
Plaintiff's severe impairments consisted of degenerative
disc disease of the lumbar spine, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid
arthritis, and bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, none of
which alone or in combination met or medically equaled the
severity of a listed impairment. (Id., Tr. 29-31,
PAGEID #: 94-96). In terms of residual functional capacity
(“RFC”), the ALJ found that plaintiff is able
“to perform sedentary work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except: lift/carry 10 pounds
occasionally and frequently; sit ...