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Mooring v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Colorado

November 29, 2017

KENDRA L. MOORING, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security,[1] Defendant.

          ORDER VACATING DECISION OF ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE

          WILLIAM J. MARTINEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a Social Security benefits appeal brought under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff Kendra L. Mooring (“Mooring”) challenges the final decision of Defendant, the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”), denying her application for supplemental security income. The denial was affirmed by an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), who ruled that Mooring was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. This appeal followed.

         For the reasons set forth below, the ALJ's decision is vacated and this case is remanded to the Commissioner for further proceedings consistent with this order.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Mooring was born in 1978 and was 33 years old on the alleged onset date of September 9, 2012. (Administrative Record (“R.”) (ECF No. 11) at 60.) She has an eighth-grade education. (R. at 35.) In the fifteen years preceding the alleged onset date, she worked as a construction laborer and warehouse worker. (R. at 17.)

         Mooring applied for supplemental security income on May 10, 2013, with a protective filing date of April 29, 2013. (R. at 170, 188.) She claimed that she is disabled due to neck and back injuries that she suffered in a car accident. (R. at 29, 192.) Her application was denied on October 17, 2013. (R. at 74.) She requested and received a hearing in front of an ALJ, Earl W. Shaffer. (R. at 24-38.) On May 5, 2015, the ALJ issued a written decision in accordance with the Commissioner's five-step sequential evaluation process.[2]

         At step one, the ALJ found that Mooring had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 29, 2013. (R. at 14.)

         At step two, the ALJ found that Mooring suffered from “the following severe impairments: spinal degenerative changes.” (Id.)

         At step three, the ALJ found that Mooring's impairments, while severe, did not meet or medically equal any of the “listed” impairments in the Social Security regulations. (Id.)

         Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ assessed Mooring's residual functional capacity (“RFC”). The ALJ concluded that Mooring has the RFC

to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b). The claimant can stand four hours and walk four hours, for a combined total of at least six hours, in an eight-hour workday.
The claimant can sit six hours in an eight-hour workday. The claimant must be able to alternate from standing or walk[ing] to sitting every 30 minutes, for as long as necessary, while remaining on the task at hand. The claimant can push and pull with upper and lower extremities at the light exertional range. The claimant cannot climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. The claimant can occasionally climb stairs and ramps. The claimant cannot balance. The claimant can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl. The claimant should avoid exposure to extreme cold, vibration and hazards such as unprotected heights and unprotected major manufacturing machinery. The claimant can perform work at the unskilled level.

(Id.) Then, at step four, the ALJ concluded that Mooring could not perform any of her past relevant work in light of this RFC. (R. at 17-18.)

         At step five, the ALJ found that Mooring's RFC permitted her to work as a self-service store sales attendant, an assembler of small products, and a cashier; and that each of these jobs exists in ...


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