Gulley v. Social Security Administration, Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF REMAND that the decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED and this action is REMANDED to the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration for further proceedings consistent with this memorandum opinion and order; as more fully set out in order. Signed by Judge C Lynwood Smith, Jr on 5/8/2012. (AHI)
2012 May-08 AM 08:02
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
SHELIA A. GULLEY,
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE,
Commissioner, Social Security
Case No. 5:11-cv-3059-CLS
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF REMAND
Claimant Shelia Gulley commenced this action on August 19, 2011, pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a final adverse decision of the
Commissioner, affirming the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), and
thereby denying her claim for a period of disability, disability insurance, and
supplemental security income benefits. For the reasons stated herein, the court finds
that the Commissioner’s ruling is due to be reversed, and this case remanded to the
Commissioner for further proceedings.
The court’s role in reviewing claims brought under the Social Security Act is
a narrow one. The scope of review is limited to determining whether there is
substantial evidence in the record as a whole to support the findings of the
Commissioner, and whether correct legal standards were applied. See Lamb v.
Bowen, 847 F.2d 698, 701 (11th Cir. 1988); Tieniber v. Heckler, 720 F.2d 1251, 1253
(11th Cir. 1983).
The ALJ found that claimant had the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, blindness in the left eye; history of
carpal tunnel release; history of cervical surgery; and urinary incontinence.1 The ALJ
nonetheless concluded that claimant retained the residual functional capacity to
perform light work,
except she would be limited to occasionally lifting 5-8 pounds with her
right hand, 8-10 pounds with her left hand, and 15-20 pounds with both
hands. She would be limited to sitting for 30 minutes at a time, standing
for 10-15 minutes at a time, and walking for 100 feet at a time.
Additionally, she would need a sit/stand option throughout an 8-hour
work day, and should avoid bending, twisting, and stooping.2
The parties disagree about what the ALJ intended by cautioning claimant to “avoid
bending, twisting, and stooping.” According to claimant, the ALJ intended to
prohibit all bending, twisting, and stooping. According to the Commissioner, the
ALJ meant that claimant should “refrain from” bending, twisting, and stooping, not
that she should avoid those postural movements altogether. The difference is
significant because, if claimant was precluded from all bending, twisting, and
stooping, that would be inconsistent with the ALJ’s determination that she could
Tr. 21 (emphasis supplied).
perform a limited range of light work.
SSR 96-9p states, in pertinent part, that
[a]n ability to stoop occasionally; i.e., from very little up to
one-third of the time, is required in most unskilled sedentary
occupations. A complete inability to stoop would significantly erode the
unskilled sedentary occupational base and a finding that the individual
is disabled would usually apply, but restriction to occasional stooping
should, by itself, only minimally erode the unskilled occupational base
of sedentary work. Consultation with a vocational resource may be
particularly useful for cases where the individual is limited to less than
occasional stooping. [emphasis supplied].
Accordingly, if claimant were completely unable to bend, twist, or stoop, she likely
would be unable to perform even sedentary work. If she is unable to perform
sedentary work, there is no reason to expect her to be able to perform light work,
which requires even greater levels of exertion. It simply is not possible to discern the
meaning of the ALJ’s statements based on the current record. Therefore, remand is
warranted for clarification of the ALJ’s limitations on claimant’s postural limitations
and the effect of those limitations on claimant’s ability to do light or sedentary work.
Based on the foregoing, the decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED, and
this action is REMANDED to the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration for further proceedings consistent with this memorandum opinion and
The Clerk of Court is directed to close this file.
DONE this 8th day of May, 2012.
United States District Judge
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