United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
RICHARD W. MOTLEY, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
8, 2015, Plaintiff Richard W. Motley (“Motley”),
by counsel, filed a complaint in this Court seeking review of
the final decision of the Defendant Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner”) [DE 1]. Motley filed
his brief in support [DE 17, as amended, DE 18, DE 19], to
which the Commissioner responded [DE 24], and Motley replied
[DE 27]. The matter is now ripe for ruling, and for the
reasons stated below, the Court remands this case to the
Commissioner for further proceedings.
March 1, 2012, Motley applied for disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income
(“SSI”),  alleging a disability onset date of May
30, 2010. Motley cited lower lumber fusion, degenerative disc
disease, arteriosclerosis, arthritis, mini strokes, and
depression as his disabling conditions. Motley's
applications were denied initially in June 2012, and on
reconsideration in December 2012. On October 1, 2013,
Administrative Law Judge William Pierson (“ALJ”)
held a hearing, during which Motley and a vocational expert
December 19, 2013, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision.
The ALJ determined that Motley had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since May 30, 2010, and suffered from the
following severe impairments: residuals of a remote lumbar
fusion, coronary artery disease, major depression-depressive
disorder, and alcohol dependence. After finding that Motley
did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
met or medically equaled one of the impairments listed in the
regulations, the ALJ reasoned that Motley had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light
work involving only simple, routine, and repetitive tasks in
a low stress environment with only occasional environmental
changes, limited by occasional kneeling, crouching, crawling,
balancing, and squatting, occasional use of ramps and stairs,
no climbing or ascending/descending on ropes, ladders, and
scaffolds, and no more than occasional exposure to
concentrated amounts of fumes, dust, gasses, or temperature
this RFC, the ALJ opined that Motley was unable to perform
his past relevant work as a tractor-trailer truck driver
because the physical demands exceeded Motley's RFC. The
VE testified that based strictly on the VE's review of
Motley's vocational background and the hypothetical posed
to her (offering the above recited RFC), Motley could perform
work as a “repack room worker, ” “stock
checker, ” and “office helper.” The ALJ
agreed with Motley's counsel that providing a
hypothetical premised on sedentary work (as opposed to light
work) would have caused Motley to be deemed disabled under
the grid rules, on account of his age, high school education,
prior work experience, and lack of transferable skills.
See 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, Subpt. P, Appendix
However, since the ALJ ultimately relied on an RFC involving
light work, the ALJ ruled that Motley was not disabled given
his ability to perform other work in the economy.
March 6, 2015, the Appeals Council denied review of the
ALJ's decision, making the decision the final
determination of the Commissioner. Schomas v.
Colvin, 732 F.3d 702, 707 (7th Cir. 2013). Motley seeks
review of the Commissioner's decision thereby invoking
this Court's jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §§
405(g) and 1383(c)(3).
has been battling depression for approximately twenty years.
In May 2008, Motley had a lumbar fusion due to degenerative
disc disease and stenosis at the L4-L5 and L5-S1 levels.
Motley also suffers from coronary artery disease and had
cardiac stent placements performed in April 2010 and June
testified that he was terminated in mid-2011 as a
tractor-trailer truck driver because he started
self-medicating by abusing alcohol in order to mask his
depression, back pain, and heart problems. After losing his
job, his depression escalated and his drinking spiraled out
of control. Motley only stopped drinking on February 20,
2012, after being admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with
major depression, suicidal thoughts and ideation, alcohol
dependence, hypertension, coronary artery disease, and
possible seizure disorder. Upon Motley's admittance, it
was documented that Motley was unemployed, and that despite
his efforts, he was unable to receive regular medical care
because he had no insurance or other financial means.
his discharge from the hospital, Motley was provided therapy
and psychiatric services through November 2012, during which
time records reflect that he continued to suffer from major
depressive disorder (recurrent, severe), alcohol dependence
(in remission), and was consistently assigned Global
Assessment of Functioning (“GAF”) scores of 48 or
below.Despite his ongoing and severe depression,
Motley was terminated from outpatient therapy in November
2012, because he violated the “no show” policy.
The discharge records indicated that Motley needed assistance
(or reminders) with attending his medical appointments.
Motley testified that he quit going to his psychiatric
therapy because he could not afford to pay the bills. Without
his treatment and medication, Motley stated that his
depression became worse.
early 2013, Motley testified that his back pain had returned
to being constant, but he did not seek further treatment
because he did not have health insurance. By late 2013, his
chest angina was controlled with medications after his second
stent placement. Motley testified that he thought he had
the ability to walk about ¼ mile, sit for no more than
an hour due to back pain, and perform household chores with
breaks. His need for breaks while slowly performing
activities of daily living is corroborated by consultative
examinations. R. at 470-74, 476-79, 619- 22. Motley did not
think he could perform work that required him to stand or sit
six hours in a day, but he believed that his health would be
better if he could get medical treatment. The record is
replete with other references to Motley's having no job
and no insurance, and with his being frustrated for not being
able to access health care. See, e.g., R.
at 476-79, 566, 595-96, 619-22, 816.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
reviewing the decision, the 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 consists of “such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales,
402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). This evidence must be “more
than a scintilla but may be less than a preponderance.”
Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d 836, 841 (7th Cir.
2007). Thus, 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).
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.
Id. An ALJ must evaluate both the evidence favoring
the claimant as well as the evidence favoring the claim's
rejection and may not ignore an entire line of evidence that
is contrary to his findings. Zurawski v. Halter, 245
F.3d 881, 887 (7th Cir. 2001). Consequently, an ALJ's
decision cannot stand if it lacks evidentiary support or an
adequate discussion of the issues. Lopez, 336 F.3d
at 539. Ultimately, while the ALJ is not required to address
every piece of evidence or testimony presented, the ALJ must
provide a “logical bridge” between the evidence
and the conclusions. Terry v. Astrue, 580 ...