United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
OPINION AND ORDER
R. CHERRY, MAGISTRATE JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by
Plaintiff Josie Maria Congious on April 3, 2015, and a Brief
in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [DE
20], filed by Plaintiff on September 21, 2015. Plaintiff
requests that the November 25, 2013 decision of the
Administrative Law Judge denying her claim for disability
insurance benefits be reversed and remanded for further
proceedings. On December 28, 2015, the Commissioner filed a
response, and Plaintiff filed a reply on January 14, 2016.
Because the ALJ erred at step three in finding that Plaintiff
does not meet Listing 14.02, the Court grants Plaintiff's
request for remand.
filed for disability insurance benefits on January 10, 2012.
Her claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration.
Plaintiff timely requested a hearing, which was held on
November 12, 2013, and presided over by Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) Angelita Hamilton. Present at the hearing were
Plaintiff, her non-attorney representative, and an impartial
issued a written decision on November 25, 2013, concluding
that Plaintiff was not disabled based on the following
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through March 31, 2014.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since September 3, 2011, the alleged onset date.
3. The claimant has the following severe impairment[s]:
lupus, degenerative disc disease; COPD; and obesity.
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in
20 CFR 404.1567(a) in that the claimant can lift or carry ten
(10) pounds occasionally and less than ten (10) pounds
frequently, can stand and/or walk about two (2) hours and can
sit about six (6) hours during an eight hour workday, except:
the claimant can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch,
crawl, and climb ramps or stairs, but she must never climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; the claimant can tolerate
occasional exposure to wetness, humidity, and excessive
vibration; the claimant can tolerate occasional exposure to
pulmonary irritants such as dusts, odors, fumes, and gases;
and the claimant can tolerate occasional exposure to hazards
such as unprotected heights, raw chemicals, and dangerous
6. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work
as a telemarketer [D.O.T. # 299.357-014]. This work does not
require the performance of work-related activities precluded
by the claimant's residual functional capacity (20 CFR
7. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from September 3, 2011, through
the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(f)).
(AR 1-22). Plaintiff then sought review before the
Agency's Appeals Council, which denied her request on
February 3, 2015, leaving the ALJ's decision as the final
decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §
416.1481. On April 3, 2015, Plaintiff filed this civil action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3) for review of the
parties filed forms of consent to have this case assigned to
a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all further
proceedings and to order the entry of a final judgment in
this case. This Court thus has jurisdiction to decide this
case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and 42 U.S.C. §
Social Security Act authorizes judicial review of the final
decision of the agency and indicates that the
Commissioner's factual findings must be accepted as
conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Thus, a court reviewing the findings of an ALJ
will reverse only if the findings are not supported by
substantial evidence or if the ALJ has applied an erroneous
legal standard. See Briscoe v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d
345, 351 (7th Cir. 2005). Substantial evidence consists of
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Schmidt v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 737, 744 (7th Cir.
2005) (quoting Gudgel v. Barnhart, 345 F.3d 467, 470
(7th Cir. 2003)).
reviews the entire administrative record but does not
reconsider facts, re-weigh the evidence, resolve conflicts in
evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ.
See Boiles v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 421, 425 (7th Cir.
2005); Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 869 (7th
Cir. 2000); Butera v. Apfel, 173 F.3d 1049, 1055
(7th Cir. 1999). Thus, the question upon judicial review of
an ALJ's finding that a claimant is not disabled within
the meaning of the Social Security Act is not whether the
claimant is, in fact, disabled, but whether the ALJ
“uses the correct legal standards and the decision is
supported by substantial evidence.” Roddy v.
Astrue, 705 F.3d 631, 636 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing
O'Connor-Spinner v. Astrue, 627 F.3d 614, 618
(7th Cir. 2010); Prochaska v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d
731, 734-35 (7th Cir. 2006); Barnett v. Barnhart,
381 F.3d 664, 668 (7th Cir. 2004)). “[I]f the
Commissioner commits an error of law, ” the Court may
reverse the decision “without regard to the volume of
evidence in support of the factual findings.” White
v. Apfel, 167 F.3d 369, 373 (7th Cir. 1999) (citing
Binion v. Chater, 108 F.3d 780, 782 (7th Cir.
minimum, an ALJ must articulate her analysis of the evidence
in order to allow the reviewing court to trace the path of
her reasoning and to be assured that the ALJ considered the
important evidence. See Scott v. Barnhart, 297 F.3d
589, 595 (7th Cir. 2002); Diaz v. Chater, 55 F.3d
300, 307 (7th Cir. 1995); Green v. Shalala, 51 F.3d
96, 101 (7th Cir. 1995). An ALJ must “‘build an
accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to [the]
conclusion' so that [a reviewing court] may assess the
validity of the agency's final decision and afford [a
claimant] meaningful review.” Giles v. Astrue,
483 F.3d 483, 487 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Scott,
297 F.3d at 595)); see also O'Connor-Spinner,
627 F.3d at 618 (“An ALJ need not specifically address
every piece of evidence, but must provide a ‘logical
bridge' between the evidence and his
conclusions.”); Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d
881, 889 (7th Cir. 2001) (“[T]he ALJ's analysis
must provide some glimpse into the reasoning behind [the]
decision to deny benefits.”).
eligible for disability benefits, a claimant must establish
that she suffers from a “disability” as defined
by the Social Security Act and regulations. The Act defines
“disability” as an inability to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment that can be
expected to result in death or that has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
twelve months. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A). To be
found disabled, the claimant's impairment must not only
prevent her from doing her previous work, but considering her
age, education, and work experience, it must also prevent her