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Baugh v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

September 30, 2016

KEAREN L. BAUGH, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Kearen L. Baugh seeks judicial review of the Acting Social Security Commissioner's decision denying her claim for disability insurance benefits. She asks this Court to reverse the Commissioner's final decision or to remand this cause for further proceedings. For the reasons below, the Court remands.

         A. Overview of the case

         Plaintiff was 40 years old at the time of the alleged disability onset date of February 15, 2011. She claims she became disabled as a result of severe headaches, dizziness, neck pain, back pain, and other pathologies. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: obesity, degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, migraines, and occipital neuralgia. Yet the ALJ found Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R § 404.1520(d). Moreover, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work, with some restrictions.

         B. Standard of review

         The Court has authority to review the Commissioner's decision under 42 USC § 405(g). The Court must ensure that the ALJ has built an “accurate and logical bridge” from evidence to conclusion. Thomas v. Colvin, 745 F.3d 802, 806 (7th Cir. 2014). The Court will uphold decisions that apply the correct legal standard and are supported by substantial evidence. Briscoe ex rel. Taylor v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 351 (7th Cir. 2005).

         C. Disability standard

         The Commissioner follows a five-step inquiry in evaluating claims for disability benefits under the Social Security Act:

(1) whether the claimant is currently employed; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment; (3) whether the claimant's impairment is one that the Commissioner considers conclusively disabling; (4) if the claimant does not have a conclusively disabling impairment, whether he can perform his past relevant work; and (5) whether the claimant is capable of performing any work in the national economy.

Kastner v. Astrue, 697 F.3d 642, 646 (7th Cir. 2012).

         The claimant bears the burden of proof at every step except step five. Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir. 2000).

         D. Analysis

         Plaintiff argues the ALJ committed three errors: (1) she failed to account properly for Plaintiff's migraines in the analysis of Plaintiff's residual functional capacity; (2) she failed to account properly for occipital neuralgia limitations in the assessment of Plaintiff's residual functional capacity; and (3) she improperly relied on the vocational expert's testimony as substantial evidence.

         (1) The ALJ erred by failing to build a logical bridge from the evidence of Plaintiff's migraines to the ALJ's ...


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