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Hattig v. Colvin

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

December 12, 2013

TRACY ANN HATTIG, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

MARK W. BENNETT, District Judge.

This case is before me on a Report and Recommendation (R&R) (docket no. 17) from Magistrate Judge Leonard Strand recommending that I reverse and remand a decision by the Social Security Commissioner (the Commissioner) denying Plaintiff Tracy Hattig (Hattig) Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. The Commissioner timely filed objections to the R&R. For the reasons discussed below, I adopt Judge Strand's R&R, reverse the Commissioner's decision, and remand this case to the Commissioner for further proceedings.

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Procedural Background

Judge Strand summarized this case's procedural background as follows:

Hattig was born in 1970 and was 39 years old on her alleged onset date of October 20, 2009. AR 15, 129. She has no past relevant work. AR 27. She protectively filed her application for SSI on October 20, 2009. AR 15. The application was denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 65-69, 75-83. Hattig then requested a hearing, which was conducted August 9, 2011, by Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Jan E. Dutton. AR 15. During the hearing, Hattig testified, as did a vocational expert ("VE"). AR 33-57. The ALJ issued a decision denying Hattig's application on September 7, 2011. AR 15-28. On September 19, 2012, the Appeals Council denied Hattig's request for review. AR 1-5. As such, the ALJ's decision is the final decision of the Commissioner. AR 1; see also 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481.
On October 18, 2012, Hattig commenced an action in this court seeking review of the ALJ's decision. This matter has been referred to me pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) for the filing of a report and recommended disposition of the case.

Report and Recommendation 1-2 (docket no. 17). Judge Strand issued his R&R on September 16, 2013, in which he recommended that the ALJ's decision be reversed and remanded for further proceedings (docket no. 17). On September 30, 2013, the Commissioner filed objections to the R&R (docket no. 18). The Commissioner essentially argues that Judge Strand's recommendation erroneously suggests that the Commissioner, rather than Hattig, bears the burden of proving Hattig's residual functional capacity (RFC). On October 9, 2013, Hattig filed a response opposing the Commissioner's objections (docket no. 19).

B. ALJ's Findings

In his R&R, Judge Strand thoroughly summarized the ALJ's decision. Report and Recommendation 2-6 (docket no. 17). Neither party has objected to this summary, only to Judge Strand's application of the law. I therefore adopt the summary of the ALJ's findings from the R&R, which is set forth below:

The ALJ made the following findings:
(1) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 20, 2009, the application date (20 CFR 416.971 et seq. ).
(2) The claimant has the following severe impairments: major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
(3) The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
(4) After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: will need to consider only unskilled work with an SVP 1 or 2. Consider work that does not require extended concentration or attention. Social interaction should not be intense or frequent, but could be occasional with the general public, co-workers and supervisors.
(5) Step 4 - The claimant has no past relevant work (20 CFR 416.965).
(6) The claimant was born on May 12, 1970 and was 39 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.963).
(7) The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 416.964).
(8) Transferability of job skills is not an issue because the claimant does not have past relevant work. (20 CFR 416.968).
(9) Step 5 - Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the ...

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