The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHIRA SCHEINDLIN, District Judge
Evelyn Medina brings this action under section 205(g) of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (the "Act"), challenging the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying
her application for supplemental security income ("SSI") benefits. The
Commissioner has moved to remand to the Social Security Administration
("SSA") for further proceedings pursuant to the fourth sentence of
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff has cross-moved for judgment on the
pleadings and remand for the calculation and award of benefits. For the
reasons set forth below, the decision of the Commissioner is vacated and
the case is remanded for further administrative proceedings.
Plaintiff filed an application for SSI benefits on September 25, 2000.
See Transcript of the administrative record ("Tr.")*fn1 at 92.
In her application, plaintiff alleged that she was disabled and had been
unable to work since May 1996 due to carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis of
the left hip, and bulging and herniated discs. Id. at 101. She
described "excruciating pain" in her back, pain in her shoulders, and
numbness in her hands and legs, and indicated that those conditions
prevented her from "[doing] heavy lifting, sitting too long or standing,"
or using her hands to write or do other things. Id. at 108.
Plaintiff also noted in her application that "[t]here are times that
because of my illness [sic] and pain from them I get depressed and
Plaintiff's application was denied. Id. at 62-66. Upon
request, a hearing was conducted before an administrative law judge
("ALJ") on January 29, 2002. Id. at 19-61. On May 2, 2002, the
ALJ issued a decision denying plaintiff's application for benefits.
Id. at 9-17. The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for
review on October 10, 2002. Id. at 4-5.
B. Plaintiff's Personal History
Plaintiff was born on September 22, 1958. Id. at 92. She was 43
years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. She has a tenth-grade
education. Id. at 107. Plaintiff has not worked since she was a
teenager and had a summer job helping kids in a youth program; she has no
vocational training. Id. at 101-02, 27-28. Plaintiff lives with
three children, her 24-year-old daughter, eight-year-old daughter, and
three-year-old nephew, in a seventh-floor apartment in an elevator
building. Id. at 25.
At the hearing, plaintiff testified that she was only able to walk
about a block or two and that the furthest she generally walked was from
her home to a store across the street. Id. at 43. She explained
that she took cabs or an
ambulance service to get around. Id. at 25-26. Plaintiff also
stated that she did not cook or do any housework. Id. at 46-47.
She testified that her 24-year-old daughter helped with cleaning and
shopping and that a government-provided "homemaker" came to her home
daily to look after her three-year-old nephew and do housework.
Id. at 48-49. Plaintiff indicated that a typical day for her
entailed getting up "slowly but surely," watching television, getting
dressed with assistance, and attending medical appointments such as her
therapy sessions. Id. at 49-50. She testified that she did
not sleep well at night because of her pain. Id. at 50.
Plaintiff's medical record in this case starts with a visit to the
Urban Health Plan ("UHP") clinic in the Bronx in June 1999. Id.
at 209. Over the next several years, she received treatment for, among
other things, chronic neck pain, cervical neuropathy, carpal tunnel
syndrome, herniated discs, osteoarthritis, anxiety, and depression.
Id. During this time, plaintiff saw her primary physician, Dr.
Claude-Edouard Parola, as well as UHP physicians in the neurology,
rheumotology, podiatry, psychiatry, and physiatry departments.
See Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law in (1) Support of Her Motion
for Judgment on the Pleadings and Remanding her Application for
Calculation and Payment of Benefits and (2) Opposition to Defendant's
Motion for Remand ("Pl. Mem.") at 3.
The record includes the following results of diagnostic testing. X-rays
of plaintiff's cervical spine taken in June 1999 were normal. See
Tr. at 156. An MRI of plaintiff's lumbrosacral spine taken in August 1999
showed disc space narrowing and a disc bulge. Id. at 153. A
March 2000 MRI of plaintiff's cervical spine showed a herniated disc and
"neuroforaminal narrowing" but no evidence of
atrophy, compression, or other abnormalities. Id. at 150.
Plaintiff was diagnosed `with carpel tunnel syndrome in April 2000 after
undergoing an electromyogram ("EMG"). Id. at 142. X-rays taken
in August 2000 revealed mild degenerative'
joint narrowing of plaintiff's right hip and left ankle and
degenerative osteoarthritic changes of her ankle. Id. at
a. Dr. Claude-Edouard Parola
Dr. Claude-Edouard Parola, plaintiff's, primary physician at UHP, began
treating plaintiff in November 1999. See Pl. Mem. at 3. On May
11, 2001, Parola reported: "[Plaintiff] suffers from . . . disc
herniation which produce [sic]' severe neck pain and parasthesia
of both upper extremities. She also suffers from carpel tunnel
syndrome, L-spine disc bulging which is causing her to have severe low
back pain. [H]er condition now is [causing] her to be depressed. She
is referred to psychiatry for evaluation. It is my opinion that Miss
Medina is unable to work due to her current medical problems." Tr. at
In an united Employability Report, Parola wrote that plaintiff should
"avoid heavy lifting, prolong [sic] sitting, standing." Id. at
On July 27, 2001, Parola reported that plaintiff "suffers from
herniated disc, carpal tunnel syndrome, depression, anxiety" and
that "[s]he should
refrain from work that requires prolonged standing, sitting, heavy
lifting, and high stress level situation." Id. at 212.
In an August 23, 2001 form report, Parola diagnosed plaintiff with
chronic back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, depression, and anxiety.
See id. at 205. He also indicated that plaintiff had a
"bilateral tingling sensation" in both hands. Id. at 204. In the
report, Parola checked off boxes characterizing plaintiff's disability as
"slowly progressive" and indicating that plaintiff experienced
limitations in walking, standing, stooping, kneeling, reaching, pushing,
and pulling, and that she should avoid lifting. Id. at 203.
Finally, in a March 5, 2002 disability report admitted to the record
after the hearing, Parola diagnosed plaintiff with chronic back pain,
peripheral neuropathy, carpel tunnel syndrome, depression, and shoulder
pain. See id. at 225. He reported that plaintiff was lying down
two to three times a day due to pain. Id. at 227. In a section
of the form report about the patient's ability to do sustained work
activities in an ordinary work setting during an eight-hour day, Parola
indicated that plaintiff could: sit continuously in a normal seated
position for 15 minutes and a total of eight hours; stand continuously at
a work station for 15 minutes at a time and a total of eight hours; and
walk continuously for 10 minutes and a total of eight hours. Id.
at 228. In the same section, he reported that
plaintiff could frequently lift and carry up to five pounds during
an eight-hour `workday and occasionally up to 10 pounds but never more
than 10 pounds. Id. at 228-29. Parola also reported that
plaintiff could ...