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Boone v. Barnhart

December 18, 2003

SARAH M. BOONE, APPELLANT
v.
JO ANNE BARNHART *FN1 COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (D.C. Civil Action No. 01-cv-04231) District Judge: Honorable Herbert J. Hutton

Before: BECKER,*fn2 Rendell, and Ambro, Circuit Judges

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambro, Circuit Judge

PRECEDENTIAL

Argued March 13, 2003

OPINION OF THE COURT

Sarah M. Boone challenges the Social Security Commissioner's determination that she is not disabled and therefore not entitled to Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") disability benefits. She makes several arguments, each of which pertains to the Administrative Law Judge's ("ALJ") determination that she can perform work that exists in significant numbers in the regional or national economy.*fn3

We agree with Boone that the record lacks substantial evidence that she can perform such work and, thus, is not disabled. We therefore reverse and remand.

BACKGROUND

Boone applied in November 1998 for SSI disability benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, alleging disability due to back and leg disorders, carpal tunnel syndrome, and high blood pressure. To show disability for purposes of SSI, a claimant must demonstrate that she lacks the ability "to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment." 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). The ALJ found that Boone suffers from severe impairments but, as noted above, that she is not disabled because there are a significant number of jobs in the national economy that she can perform.

Boone was fifty-three years old at the alleged onset date of her disability in November 1998. She has an eleventh grade education and, although she has not worked since 1986, has past experience as an office cleaner as well as a meat weigher and wrapper.

After she was involved in a bus accident in the 1980s, Boone underwent back surgery. She has sought assistance from pain specialists since that time. The ALJ found that she has a continuing back disorder caused by degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, a disc bulge, and left leg radiculopathy, and that she suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome and right knee pain.*fn4 The ALJ therefore concluded that Boone is severely impaired.

Looking to the effect of Boone's impairments, the ALJ found that she cannot perform her past work as an office cleaner or meat weigher and wrapper, but that she does retain the capacity to perform "a range of light level work."*fn5

In particular, she can stand, walk, and sit for six hours out of an eight-hour day. Any employment must, however, permit her to sit and stand at will every thirty minutes. She can lift and carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently. She has no limitations in pushing or pulling, but must not be required to perform repetitive hand activity. Only occasionally can she climb, balance, kneel, stoop, crouch, or crawl.

On the basis of the physical limitations identified by the ALJ and considering Boone's age, education, and unskilled work history, a vocational expert ("VE") testified that Boone has the ability to work as an inventory clerk, a home health aide, or a sales counter clerk. According to the VE, there are 2,600 inventory clerk jobs in the regional economy and 127,000 such jobs in the national economy; there are 5,800 home health aide jobs regionally and 322,000 nationally; and 1,500 sales counter clerk jobs exist regionally and 95,000 nationally. The ALJ concluded that these occupations represent a significant number of jobs existing in the national economy and, accordingly, that Boone is not disabled.

After the Appeals Council denied her request for review, Boone timely appealed to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. A magistrate judge recommended granting the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment, which the Court did on June 17, 2002. Boone timely appealed to ...


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