United States District Court, N.D. Indiana
TAUNDA G. ANGEL, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN JUDGE
Plaintiff, Taunda G. Angel, seeks review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration denying her application for Supplemental
Security Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance Benefits
(DIB). On October 13, 2011, the Plaintiff protectively filed
an application for DIB; and on November 23, 2011, she filed
an application for SSI. In both applications, the Plaintiff
alleges disability beginning on July 16, 2011. An ALJ held a
hearing on May 13, 2013, at which the Plaintiff-who was
represented by an attorney-and a vocational expert both
testified. On September 6, 2013, the ALJ found that the
Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: asthma,
allergies, and obesity. However, he ultimately concluded that
the Plaintiff is not disabled. The Plaintiff requested review
of the ALJ decision, and on December 18, 2014, the Appeals
Council denied the Plaintiff’s request for review. On
February 18, 2015, the Plaintiff initiated this civil action
for judicial review of the Commissioner’s final
decision. For the following reasons, the ALJ’s decision
is reversed and remanded for proceedings consistent with this
Opinion and Order.
The Plaintiff’s Testimony
Plaintiff is 55 years old and lives with her two daughters.
She has completed some college, and she has past relevant
work experience as a cashier and office clerk.
ALJ hearing on May 13, 2013, the Plaintiff described her
daily experience with several alleged physical impairments.
The Plaintiff said she suffers from allergies, arthritis, and
exacerbations of asthma that cause frequent uncontrollable
coughing fits and asthma attacks. According to the Plaintiff,
her asthma causes coughing fits or asthma attacks every four
to five hours even when she takes proper medication. The
Plaintiff also said that she suffers from asthma “flare
ups” that last for days or weeks and cause her to be
absent from work for months at a time. The Plaintiff also
explained that her arthritis makes it difficult to stand or
sit in the same location for extended periods of time. When
asked why she could not work, the Plaintiff testified:
My asthma is very, very severe and I have problems at
different times a year due to when the weather changes during
the year or chemicals affecting my breathing and everything
that at different times of year and everything from chemicals
that-colognes and stuff like that might affect my breathing.
(R. 40-41 [ECF No. 14].)
Plaintiff treats her asthma by using four different inhalers,
a nebulizer machine with albuterol solution, Xolair shots,
and various other medications. According to the Plaintiff,
these medications trigger nausea and an upset stomach. The
Plaintiff also said she occasionally treats her asthma with
prednisone, which causes weight gain and sensitivity to
fluorescent light and direct sunlight.
Plaintiff testified that she has the ability to perform
limited chores around the house (i.e., laundry or cooking)
and to travel short distances (e.g. for grocery shopping).
The Plaintiff relies on her daughter’s assistance,
particularly for strenuous household chores.
Vocational Expert’s Testimony
hearing, the vocational expert (VE) testified that an
individual of the Plaintiff’s age, education, and work
experience, who was limited to light exertional
workin a work setting that (1) does not expose
the individual to extreme heat or cold; (2) does not expose
the individual to wetness or to humidity; (3) does not expose
the individual to environmental irritants such as fumes,
odors, dusts, or gasses; and (4) does not expose the
individual to raw chemicals or solutions, could perform the
Plaintiff’s past work as an office clerk. The VE also
stated that, typically, an individual employed as an office
clerk could “usually [miss] no more than a day to a day
and half per month over the year.” (R. 60.)
decision of the ALJ is the final decision of the Commissioner
when the Appeals Council denies a request for review.
Liskowitz v. Astrue, 559 F.3d 736, 739 (7th Cir.
2009). A court will affirm the Commissioner’s findings
of fact and denial of disability benefits if they are
supported by substantial evidence. Craft v. Astrue,
539 F.3d 668, 673 (7th Cir. 2008). Substantial evidence is
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). It
must be “more than a scintilla but may be less than a
preponderance.” Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d
836, 841 (7th Cir. 2007). Even if “reasonable minds
could differ” about the disability status of the
claimant, the court must affirm the Commissioner’s
decision as long as it is adequately supported. Elder v.
Astrue, 529 F.3d 408, 413 (7th Cir. 2008).
the duty of the ALJ to weigh the evidence, resolve material
conflicts, make independent findings of fact, and dispose of
the case accordingly. Perales, 402 U.S. at 399-400.
In this substantial-evidence determination, the court
considers the entire administrative record but does not
reweigh evidence, resolve conflicts, decide questions of
credibility, or substitute the court’s own judgment for
that of the Commissioner. Lopez ex rel. Lopez v.
Barnhart, 336 F.3d 535, 539 (7th Cir. 2003).
Nevertheless, the court conducts a “critical review of
the evidence” before affirming the Commissioner’s
decision, and the decision cannot stand if it lacks
evidentiary support or an inadequate discussion of the
is not required to address every piece of evidence or
testimony presented, but the ALJ must provide a
“logical bridge” between the evidence and the
conclusions. Terry v. Astrue, 580 F.3d 471, 475 (7th
Cir. 2009). If the Commissioner commits an error of law,
remand is warranted without regard to the volume of ...