United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ROLONDA F. MOORE, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW
WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, District Judge.
Plaintiff Rolanda F. Moore requests judicial review of the final decision of the Defendant, Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"), denying Moore's application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). The Court, having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, rules as follows.
I. APPLICABLE STANDARD
Disability is defined as "the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable mental or physical impairment which can be expected to result in death, or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). In order to be found disabled, a claimant must demonstrate that her physical or mental limitations prevent her from doing not only her previous work, but any other kind of gainful employment which exists in the national economy, considering her age, education, and work experience. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).
In determining whether a claimant is disabled, the Commissioner employs a five-step sequential analysis. At step one, if the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity she is not disabled, despite her medical condition and other factors. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i). At step two, if the claimant does not have a "severe" impairment (i.e., one that significantly limits her ability to perform basic work activities), she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii). At step three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments meets or medically equals any impairment that appears in the Listing of Impairments, 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, App. 1, and whether the impairment meets the twelve-month duration requirement; if so, the claimant is deemed disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iii). At step four, if the claimant is able to perform her past relevant work, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920 (a)(4)(iv). At step five, if the claimant can perform any other work in the national economy, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920 (a)(4)(v).
In reviewing the ALJ's decision, the ALJ's findings of fact are conclusive and must be upheld by this court "so long as substantial evidence supports them and no error of law occurred." Dixon v. Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1176 (7th Cir. 2001). "Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, " Id., and this court may not reweigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. Binion v. Chater, 108 F.3d 780, 782 (7th Cir. 1997). The ALJ is required to articulate only a minimal, but legitimate, justification for his acceptance or rejection of specific evidence of disability. Scheck v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 697, 700 (7th Cir. 2004). In order to be affirmed, the ALJ must articulate his analysis of the evidence in her decision; while he "is not required to address every piece of evidence or testimony, " he must "provide some glimpse into [his] reasoning... [and] build an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to [his] conclusion." Dixon, 270 F.3d at 1176.
Moore was born on August 24, 1964, and was 40 years old at the time of the alleged onset of disability. Moore has completed the twelfth grade and has prior relevant work experience as a customer service manager and secretary. She applied for SSI on April 25, 2011, alleging disability beginning December 24, 2004. In her application for benefits, Moore alleged she was disabled due to anxiety, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, degenerative disk disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, colitis, arthritis, high blood pressure, migraines, and difficulties with her left upper extremity. Her application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, after which she requested and was granted a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). On August 7, 2012, Moore appeared with counsel and testified at an administrative hearing before ALJ James R. Norris. ALJ Norris issued his decision denying Moore's application on August 22, 2012. On November 14, 2013, the Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision, thereby rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner and subject to judicial review.
In February 2010, Moore presented to Dr. Marcia Johnson, a rheumatologist. During this initial appointment, Moore complained of difficulties with joint pain, swelling in her hands, ankles and lumbar spine, and tenderness and decreased motion in her shoulders. Dr. Johnson noted that Moore's elbows were within normal limits, her wrists were tender but had no evidence of swelling, and she was able to make seventy-five percent of a fist. Dr. Johnson also evaluated laboratory data. This data showed that Moore had a negative ANA factor and a negative rheumatoid factor. Overall, Dr. Johnson diagnosed Moore with inflammatory polyarthritis, fibromyalgia, lumbar and sacral osteoarthritis, and hypertension. Dr. Johnson started Moore on several medications, including Prednisone, Methotrexate, and Folate.
On April 4, 2010, Moore returned to Dr. Johnson for a follow-up. During this appointment, Moore showed improvement with no tenderness of the cervical spine or shoulders. Her elbows, wrists, and knees were within normal limits. She continued to have slight swelling in the hands and could still only make seventy-five percent of a fist. On July 26, 2010, Moore returned to Dr. Johnson. During this visit, her joints were within normal limits and she could make one-hundred percent of a fist. Dr. Johnson urged compliance with the medication regimen. Moore also complained of new lower back pain.
On February 14, 2011, Moore presented to a neurologist, Dr. Jessi Li, complaining of decreased sensation in the upper extremities. An EMG was performed on her upper extremities, but it showed no evidence of neuropathy. Dr. Li advised Moore to follow up with Dr. Johnson.
In March 2011, Moore met with a new physician, Dr. Andrew Campbell, to establish primary care. During this appointment, Moore complained of anxiety. Dr. Campbell prescribed Klonopin and Cymbalta. By May of 2011, Moore was still reliant on Klonopin.
On March 15, 2011, Moore returned to Dr. Johnson complaining of new pain in her left elbow after she hit it. Dr. Johnson ordered imaging of her elbow. An x-ray was ...