United States District Court, N.D. Indiana
OPINION AND ORDER
S. VAN BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Crystal Marie Miltenberger seeks judicial review of the
Social Security Administration's decision denying her
disability insurance benefits. She asks the Court to reverse
the Administration or to remand the case. The Court affirms.
Court has authority to review the Commissioner's decision
under 42 U.S.C. § 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).
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.
claimant bears the burden of proof at every step except step
five. Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir.
applying for her disability insurance benefits, Plaintiff
alleged that, among other things, various ailments related to
her spine, as well as her depression and fibromyalgia,
preclude her from working. The ALJ found that her impairments
weren't disabling, and Plaintiff is challenging those
findings in this appeal.
preliminary matter, Plaintiff claims that, in denying her
application for benefits, the ALJ erred in relying on
unsigned doctor reports. But her challenge is not that the
ALJ relied upon the unsigned reports of consultative
examiners, which the Regulations prohibit, see 20
C.F.R. § 404.1519n(e); rather, she challenges the
reports of the consultants who didn't examine Plaintiff
but reviewed the record as a whole, and who typed their names
on the forms in the “signature boxes.”
Regulations are silent as to what kind of affirmation must be
included in the consultant's report. And that is the
first downfall of Plaintiff's argument. See Devries
v. Colvin, No. 3:15-CV-188-PPS, 2016 WL 4409231, at *3
(N.D. Ind. Aug. 18, 2016). As in Devries so here:
Plaintiff failed to “cite any authority explaining what
does and does not constitute an electronic signature.”
Id. Moreover, as Judge Simon observed in
Devries, there is a provision in POMS that suggests
such forms may (or must) be completed online and
eForms, UniForms, and OMB approved forms incorporated in
electronic tools, such as eCAT, are electronically signed
using the “SIGN” button located in the signature
field. The “SIGN” button produces an approved
electronic signature, in an italicized font, of the user who
is logged on to the workstation. Electronically signed
eForms, UniForms, and forms incorporated into electronic
tools, such as eCAT, do not require a handwritten signature.
DI 81020.105(C)(1). POMS appears to contemplate a form of
approved electronic signature that may be what was used on
the Lovko and Dobson forms.
more, district courts in the Seventh Circuit “have
affirmed ALJs reliance on reports signed using ...