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Gallegos v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Colorado

February 20, 2018

FRED JAMES GALLEGOS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER VACATING DECISION OF ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE

          William J. Martínez, Judge.

         This is a Social Security benefits appeal brought under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff Fred James Gallegos (“Gallegos”) challenges the final decision of Defendant, the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”), denying his application for disability insurance benefits. The denial was affirmed by an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), who ruled that Gallegos was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act before his date last insured. 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 1967 and was 46 years old on the amended alleged onset date of December 4, 2013. (Administrative Record (“R.”) (ECF No. 13) at 5, 606.) His educational achievements are unclear. However, in the fifteen years preceding the alleged onset date, he worked as a building maintenance laborer, a machine operator, a night trainer, a warehouseman, and a construction laborer. (R. at 617-18.)

         Gallegos applied for disability insurance benefits on December 6, 2013. (R. at 606.) He claimed that he is disabled due to a worsening heart condition, diabetes, hypertension, low back pain, fatigue, hypothyroidism, sciatica, herniated discs, high cholesterol, temporomandibular joint disease, tinnitus, depression, anxiety, and pain radiating from his low back into his buttocks and legs. (R. at 606-07.) His application was denied on July 2, 2014. (R. at 619.) He requested and received a hearing in front of an ALJ, Kelley Day. (R. at 533-83.) On November 23, 2015, the ALJ issued a written decision in accordance with the Commissioner's five-step sequential evaluation process.[1]

         At step one, the ALJ found that Gallegos had not engaged in substantial gainful activity from December 4, 2013, through his date last insured, June 30, 2014. (R. at 485.)

         At step two, the ALJ found that Gallegos, “through the date last insured, ” suffered from “the following severe impairments: degenerative lumbar disc disease with fusion, degenerative cervical disc disease, coronary artery disease, mood disorder, [and] anxiety disorder.” (Id.)

         At step three, the ALJ found that Gallegos'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 Gallegos's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) as of the date last insured. The ALJ concluded that Gallegos has the RFC

to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except that he required the use of an ambulatory aid. He was limited to occasional balancing, stooping, and climbing ramps and stairs; no kneeling, crouching, crawling, or climbing ropes, ladders, or scaffolds; and could not have exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights and moving mechanical equipment. He was able to sit for 30 minutes consecutively before standing for up to 5 minutes while remaining on task. Mentally, he was able to do simple, repetitive work with only occasional contact with coworkers and supervisors and no contact with the public

(R. at 487.) Then, at step four, the ALJ concluded that Gallegos could not have performed any of his past relevant work, as of the date last insured, in light of this RFC. (R. at 495.)

         At step five, the ALJ found that Gallegos's RFC would have permitted him to work as a “Final Assembler Optical, ” an “Assembler Buttons, Notions, ” and an “Addressor”; and that each of these jobs exists in sufficient numbers in the regional and national economy. (R. at 495-96.)

         Accordingly, the ALJ found that Gallegos was not entitled to Social Security benefits. (R. at 496-97.) Gallegos appealed to the Socials Security Appeals Council (R. at 446), which denied review (R. at 1). Gallegos then filed this action ...


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