United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
OPINION AND ORDER
R. CHERRY MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by
Plaintiff Richard Wayne Soga Jr. on June 4, 2015, and a
Plaintiff's Brief in Support of Motion for Summary
Judgment [DE 17], filed by Plaintiff on September 23, 2015.
Plaintiff requests that the May 7, 2013 decision of the
Administrative Law Judge denying his claim for disability
insurance benefits and supplemental security income be
reversed and remanded for further proceedings. On January 4,
2016, the Commissioner filed a response, and Plaintiff filed
a reply on February 3, 2016. For the following reasons, the
Court denies Plaintiff's request for remand.
filed an application for supplemental security income on June
12, 2007, alleging disability since 1990. Following a hearing
on March17, 2010, an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) issued an unfavorable decision, which was
appealed, and the Court vacated the decision and remanded for
further proceedings. On December 17, 2012, ALJ Harry Kramzyk
held a hearing. In attendance at the hearing were Plaintiff,
Plaintiff's mother Diane Soga, an impartial vocational
expert, and Plaintiff's attorney. On May 7, 2013, the ALJ
issued a written decision denying benefits, making the
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since June 12, 2007, the application date.
2. The claimant has the following severe impairment:
3. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed
impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
4. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all
exertional levels but with the following non-exertional
limitations: the claimant can understand, remember, and carry
out short, simple, repetitive instructions; the claimant is
able to sustain attention/concentration for two-hour periods
at a time, and for eight hours in the workday on short,
simple, and repetitive instructions; the claimant can use
judgment in making work decisions related to short, simple,
and repetitive instructions; the claimant requires an
occupation with only occasional coworker contact and
supervision; the claimant requires an occupation with set
routines and procedures and few changes during the workday;
the claimant could have only superficial contact with the
public on routine matters; the claimant cannot perform
fast-pace production work; the claimant can maintain regular
attendance, can perform activities within a schedule, and be
punctual within customary tolerances.
5. The claimant has no past relevant work.
6. The claimant was born [in 1984] and was 22 years old,
which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the
date the application was filed.
7. The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English.
8. Transferability of job skills is not an issue because the
claimant does not have past relevant work.
9. Considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that the claimant can perform.
10. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, since June 12, 2007, the date the
application was filed.
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review,
leaving the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481.
Plaintiff filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 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. Therefore, this Court 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 his analysis of the evidence
in order to allow the reviewing court to trace the path of
his 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 he 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. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). To be found
disabled, the claimant's impairment must not only prevent
him from doing his previous work, but considering his age,
education, and work experience, it must also prevent him from
engaging in any other type of substantial gainful activity
that exists in significant numbers in the economy. 42 U.S.C.
§ 1382c(a)(3)(B); 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e)-(f).
claimant alleges a disability, Social Security regulations
provide a five-step inquiry to evaluate whether the claimant
is entitled to benefits. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). The
steps are: (1) Is the claimant engaged in substantial gainful
activity? If yes, the claimant is not disabled, and the claim
is denied; if no, the inquiry proceeds to step two; (2) Does
the claimant have an impairment or combination of impairments
that are severe? If no, the claimant is not disabled, and the
claim is denied; if yes, the inquiry proceeds to step three;
(3) Do(es) the impairment(s) meet or equal a listed
impairment in the appendix to the regulations? If yes, the
claimant is automatically considered disabled; if no, then
the inquiry proceeds to step four; (4) Can the claimant do
the claimant's past relevant work? If yes, the claimant
is not disabled, and the claim is denied; if no, then the
inquiry proceeds to step five; (5) Can the claimant perform
other work given the claimant's residual functional
capacity (RFC), age, education, and experience? If yes, then
the claimant is not disabled, and the claim is denied; if no,
the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4)(i)-(v); see also Scheck v. Barnhart,
357 F.3d 697, 699-700 (7th Cir. 2004).
steps four and five, the ALJ must consider an assessment of
the claimant's RFC. The RFC “is an administrative
assessment of what work-related activities an individual can
perform despite [his] limitations.” Dixon v.
Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1178 (7th Cir. 2001). The RFC
should be based on evidence in the record. Craft v.
Astrue, 539 F.3d 668, 676 (7th Cir. 2008) (citing 20
C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(3)). The claimant bears the burden
of proving steps one through four, whereas the burden at step
five is on the ALJ. Zurawski, 245 F.3d at 885-86;
see also Knight v. Chater, 55 F.3d 309, 313 (7th
2003, more than four years before Plaintiff filed an
application for benefits, Dr. Robert Coyle performed a
neuropsychological evaluation of him. (AR 277). Plaintiff was
a senior in high school, receiving special education
assistance in reading. Dr. Coyle found him pleasant and
cooperative; Plaintiff tested in the low average range on the
Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-III. Plaintiff's
capacity for abstraction and concept formation was intact,
suggesting a “normal learning curve in being trained at
a new job . . . . He should be flexible and adaptable on the
job.” (AR 282). His memory and localization test scores
were “exceptional.” (AR 283). His alertness and
sustained concentration scores were normal to mildly impaired
on the Seashore Rhythm and Speech-Sounds Perception test. On
the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2, Plaintiff
had moderately abnormal scores, with some problems in poor
judgment, touchiness, and acting out. He appeared edgy,
somewhat depressed and socially unforthcoming during testing,
with a need for emotional support. Dr. Coyle saw a
“mild degree of impairment” with good capacity
for new learning, normal memory and adequate capacity for
attention and concentration for vocational purposes.
next three years, there are no pertinent medical records. In
June 2006, Plaintiff's mother expressed concerns about
Plaintiff's inattention, social problems, and inability
to find work after finishing high school. (AR 293). On June
8, 2006, on a physical form, it is noted that Plaintiff had a
normal mood, affect, memory, and judgment. Other examinations
around this time showed a normal or euthymic mood, but a
blunted affect. Plaintiff saw a licensed clinical social
worker for stress management.
in December 2006, Plaintiff met with an employment specialist
and received other state vocational rehabilitation services.
(AR 309). Plaintiff had excellent participation and applied
for many jobs in 2007. There are few records documenting
abnormal mental status findings between 2006 and the benefits
application date of June 12, 2007.
August 24, 2007, Plaintiff had an internal medicine
consultative examination with Dr. Saavedra, reporting
agitation with loud noises and a short temper. (AR 328).
Plaintiff denied any memory loss or concentration deficits.
He was cooperative and understood basic commands without
difficulty. Examination findings were normal.
September 19, 2007, Plaintiff saw Dr. Rini for a
psychological consultative examination. (AR 360). Plaintiff
reported fixating on things, difficulty connecting
emotionally, conflicts with peers, mood swings, and
concentration problems. Plaintiff said he could focus better
when on medication. He said he had friends but that they
tended to drift away. Plaintiff reported working for Regis
for one month until he quit because it was too much driving.
He reported that his previous work as a dishwasher at
Baker's Square ended after 18 months when he quit because
his manager wanted him to do something that he did not want
to do. On examination, he repeated six digits forward and
three digits in reverse and could recall all three household
items after five minutes. He correctly performed almost all
math calculations and serial sevens. He had a blunted affect,
but reported feeling alright. Dr. Rini's diagnosis
included Asperger Syndrome and a GAF score of 57. Dr. Rini
opined that Plaintiff functioned in the normal range of
intellectual ability, but was socially impaired, with below
average concentration and average memory.
months later, on October 1, 2007, Dr. William Shipley, Ph.D.,
reviewed Plaintiff's disability claim file for the Bureau
of Disability Determination Services and concluded that
Plaintiff might be precluded from successfully handling
complex changing tasks and would likely not do well working
with the general public. Dr. Shipley also opined that
Plaintiff retained the ability to complete simple repetitive
tasks on a sustained basis without special consideration. He
assessed a mild restriction in activities of daily living and
moderate restrictions in social functioning and in
maintaining concentration, ...