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Scott v. Saul

United States District Court, D. Delaware

August 14, 2019

PATSY D. SCOTT Plaintiff
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL[1] Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          MaLachy E. Mannion United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Patsy D. Scott (“Scott”) brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §§405(g), 1383(c)(3) to review the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying her claims for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Social Security Income Benefits (“SSI”). (Doc. 2). An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) concluded that Scott is capable of performing past relevant work and, thus, is not entitled to DIB or SSI. (Doc. 7-2, at 25-26). After review of the ALJ's decision was denied, it became the final decision of the Commissioner. (Doc. 7-2, at 1). Scott alleges that the ALJ erred: (1) in finding Scott's mental impairments were non-severe; (2) in finding that Scott was able to return to her past relevant work; and (3) in failing to apply the medical-vocational guidelines. (Doc. 11-1).

         The record in this action has been reviewed as instructed by 42 U.S.C. §405(g) to determine whether there is substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision denying Scott's claim for DIB and SSI under the Social Security Act (“Act”). 42 U.S.C. §§401-433, 1381-1383f.

         For the reasons set forth herein, Scott's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 11) will be DENIED, the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment (Doc. 12) will be DENIED, the Commissioner's decision denying DIB and SSI will be VACATED, and this matter will be REMANDED to the Commissioner under 42 U.S.C. §405(g).

         II. BACKGROUND

         a. Procedural History

         Scott applied for DIB on December 3, 2013, alleging disability beginning on January 1, 2012 (Doc. 7-5, at 2-3) and applied for SSI on December 17, 2013, alleging disability beginning on December 17, 2013 (Doc. 7-5, at 4-13). Scott's DIB and SSI applications were both initially denied on March 6, 2014 (Doc. 7-3, at 13-34), and were again denied on reconsideration on September 25, 2014 (Doc. 7-3, at 37-62).

         On December 10, 2014, Scott filed a request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Doc. 7-4, 19-20). Scott was represented by counsel at the hearing held on February 17, 2017, via video conference. (Doc. 7-2, at 32-59). On March 24, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision denying Scott's claims for DIB and SSI. (Doc. 7-2, at 10-26). Scott requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Social Security Administration's Appeals Council (“Appeals Council”) on May 22, 2017. (Doc. 7-4, at 83-85). The Appeals Council denied Scott's request for review on September 12, 2017. (Doc. 7-2, at 2-6). Therefore, the ALJ's decision denying Scott DIB and SSI became the final decision of the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. §§404.955, 404.981; Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).

         On November 15, 2017, Scott filed a complaint seeking judicial review of the ALJ's decision. (Doc. 2). Scott filed her motion for summary judgment (Doc. 11) along with a brief in support (Doc. 11-1) on February 19, 2019. The Commissioner filed her cross-motion for summary judgment (Doc. 12) with a brief in support of her motion and in opposition of Scott's motion (Doc. 13) on March 21, 2019. The motions are now ripe for disposition.

         b. The Administrative Hearing

         At the hearing held before an ALJ on February 17, 2017, Scott testified along with vocational expert Brade Berger (“VE Berger”). Scott was represented at the hearing by Attorney Vanessa Guslav. The testimony may be summarized as follows.

         i. Scott's Testimony

         At the time of the hearing, Scott was 58 years old, stood 5' 3.5” tall, and weighed about 202 pounds. (Doc. 7-2, at 37-38). She completed college and holds a degree in the field of accounting. (Doc. 7-2, at 39). In addition to working as an accounting clerk, Scott has held positions at an Amazon warehouse, her sister's daycare, and AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals. (Doc. 7-2, at 39-43). Scott quit her most recent job as an accounting clerk for a funeral home because she had trouble keeping up with the job performance expectations that she had for herself and because the job required ...


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