United States District Court, D. New Jersey
ADRIENNE FREYA JARVIS, ESQUIRE, CHERRY HILL, NEW JERSEY, Counsel for Plaintiff.
SERGEI ADEN, ESQUIRE, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL REGION II, NEW YORK, NY. Counsel for Defendant.
NOEL L. HILLMAN, District Judge.
This matter comes before the Court pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to review the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, denying Plaintiff's application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq.. The issue before the Court is whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") erred in finding that there was "substantial evidence" that Plaintiff was not disabled at any time since his alleged onset date of disability, January 7, 2008. For the reasons stated below, this Court will reverse the decision of the ALJ and remand the matter for further proceedings.
I. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff was born on January 9, 1970. (R. at 242.) He completed the ninth grade in Puerto Rico and took special education classes. (R. at 45.) He understands some English but does not speak English. (Id.) From 1999 to 2007, Plaintiff worked in a factory, first as a "floor person" and then on the assembly line. (R. at 270.)
Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and Supplemental Security Income in June 2010, claiming that he was unable to work as of January 7, 2008. (R. at 242-47.) Plaintiff was advised by letter dated November 29, 2010 that he was granted Supplemental Security Income based on a finding that Plaintiff was disabled as of July 1, 2010. (R. at 75.) Also on November 29, 2010, Plaintiff was advised that his claim for DIB was denied on the basis that there was insufficient evidence to find his condition disabling on any date through December 31, 2008, the date he was last insured. (R. at 70.) Plaintiff requested reconsideration of his claim for DIB, but this request was denied on March 3, 2011. (R. at 98.)
Plaintiff thereafter sought a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (hereafter, "ALJ"). On April 9, 2012, a hearing began before the assigned ALJ was continued because Plaintiff became ill. (R. at 62.) A hearing was then held on July 13, 2012 before another ALJ. (R. at 39.) The second ALJ issued a written decision in which he determined that Plaintiff was not disabled. (R. at 25-31.) Plaintiff appealed the decision. The Appeals Council reviewed the ALJ's decision and denied Plaintiff's request for review, thus rendering it final. (R. at 1.) Plaintiff now seeks this Court's review of the ALJ's denial of his application for DIB.
1. The Medical Evidence Before the ALJ
The medical evidence consists of, inter alia, emergency room records, radiology records, the medical report of Steven Klein, D.O., and progress notes from Osborn Family Health Center. Plaintiff's appeal focuses primarily on the report of Dr. Klein, a physician for the State of New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Division of Disability Determination Services. (R. at 401-404.) Dr. Klein conducted a physical examination of Plaintiff on January 31, 2008. In his report, Dr. Klein noted that Plaintiff is 5 feet, 11 inches tall, weighs 273 pounds, and complains of asthma. Dr. Klein also noted the following:
1. Reduced grip strength of 3/5 with Plaintiff's left upper extremities and 4/5 with his right upper extremities;
2. Positive acromioclavicular shear test;
3. Reduced range of left shoulder abduction at fifty percent, with nonspecific shoulder pain;
4. Reduced forward flexion limited to fifty degrees;
5. Bilateral side bending limited to ten degrees;
6. Pathological Romberg's sign;
7. Inability to walk heel-to-toe; and
8. Palpable thyroid.
(R. at 403.) In his report, Dr. Klein then stated that "[o]n the basis of the above evaluation, this individual suffers from:
1. A 2-month known history of non-insulin dependent ...