December 17, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Indiana, Fort Wayne Division. No.
l:18-cv-00204-WCL-SLC - William C. Lee, Judge.
Ripple, Sykes, and St. Eve, Circuit Judges.
Prater applied for Social Security Disability Insurance
Benefits based on a variety of mental and physical
impairments. An administrative law judge denied her
application on the ground that her residual functional
capacity ("RFC") allows her to perform limited
sedentary work, and the district court affirmed. On appeal,
Ms. Prater argues only that the RFC assessment is too vague
about her need to alternate between sitting and standing.
However, because the sit/stand limitation in the RFC
assessment specifies that Ms. Prater may change positions as
needed so long as she remains in position for at least thirty
minutes at a time, we affirm the judgment of the district
Prater applied for benefits in 2015, alleging a disability
onset date in April of that year. At the time of the
administrative law judge's ("ALJ") decision two
years later, Ms. Prater was a forty-seven-year-old woman who
weighed about 400 pounds and stood five feet, four inches
tall, which her doctor diagnosed as "morbid
obesity." A.R. at 672. X-rays from 2015 showed that she
suffered from mild to moderate degenerative joint disease in
her feet and knees and mild to moderate degenerative disc
disease in her spine. She was also diabetic and had a history
of gout, which she treated with prescribed medication. On her
application, Ms. Prater stated that at her last job she
experienced pain and fatigue "all the time." A.R.
at 220. She reported these symptoms to her doctors, but her
examinations revealed generally normal findings despite her
many diagnoses. None of her treating physicians offered an
opinion that she must alternate between sitting and standing
with any particular frequency, or at all.
of the benefits application process, several state-agency
physicians submitted reports about Ms. Prater's
difficulties with standing or sitting for extended periods.
She reported to Dr. H. M. Bacchus that she could sit for
thirty to sixty minutes and stand for twenty minutes, and Dr.
Bacchus concluded after an examination that Ms. Prater
"appear[ed] to have limitations in regard to prolonged
standing." A.R. at 456. Based on a review of the medical
records, Dr. J. V. Corcoran opined that Ms. Prater could
stand for a total of two hours and sit for a total of six
hours in an eight-hour workday with normal breaks. Dr. Jerry
Smartt also reviewed the medical records and agreed with Dr.
her application was denied, Ms. Prater requested a hearing
before an ALJ. Ms. Prater testified that at her last job
working in a factory, after about an hour she would lose her
breath, and her feet, legs, and back would start to hurt.
After she stopped working, she experienced about the same
level of pain in her back and legs. The pain in her feet,
however, worsened. When she was on her feet for more than
twenty minutes, Ms. Prater said, the pain in all three areas
would increase. She testified that, because of the pain, she
could either stand or sit for only twenty minutes at a time.
vocational expert ("VE") also testified at the
hearing. The ALJ asked the VE about the availability of work
for a hypothetical individual with the same vocational
background, education, and age as Ms. Prater, who was limited
to sedentary work with various restrictions on lifting,
carrying, climbing, driving, and more. Further, this person
could "stand and walk no more than two hours of an
eight-hour day [and] remain seated for the rest of the
day." A.R. at 72. The person also "would need to
change positions in the course of the day" but
"could remain in place for at least thirty
minutes” "whether it's sitting or
standing." Id. The VE answered that such a
person could not do any of Ms. Prater's past jobs but
could perform other jobs that are available in the national
economy. It would not be "acceptable in competitive
employment/' however, for someone to need to alternate