United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
CYNTHIA F. CHANDLER, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Baker United States Magistrate Judge.
Cynthia F. Chandler appeals the Commissioner's decision
denying her claim for Social Security benefits. Chandler
argues that the Administrative Law Judge assessed a residual
functioning capacity that is not supported by substantial
evidence and failed to properly evaluate her symptoms. For
the reasons below, the Magistrate Judge recommends that
Chandler's brief in support of appeal be denied.
[Filing No. 20.]
filed for disability insurance benefits and supplemental
security benefits on May 23, 2013, alleging an onset date of
January 26, 2012. Chandler's claims were denied initially
and upon reconsideration. Chandler testified before an ALJ on
July 10, 2014, who denied Chandler's claims by written
decision on August 8, 2014.
one, the ALJ found that Chandler had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. At
step two, the ALJ found that Chandler's severe
impairments are obesity and degenerative disc disease. At
step three, the ALJ considered Chandler's impairments and
determined that they did not meet or equal a listing. At step
four, the ALJ found that Chandler has the RFC to perform
light work that can be done either sitting or standing, and
with a cane for ambulation. Based on this RFC and testimony
from a vocational expert, the ALJ determined that Chandler
can perform her past work as a general office clerk and front
desk office receptionist. The ALJ also found that even if she
proceeded to step five, the VE testified that Chandler is
also able to work as a toll collector, booth cashier, or
ticket seller. Thus, the ALJ concluded Chandler is not
disabled. On December 22, 2015, the Appeals Council denied
review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of
the Commissioner. This appeal followed.
Standard of Review
Court must uphold the ALJ's decision if substantial
evidence supports her findings. Terry v. Astrue, 580
F.3d 471, 475 (7th Cir. 2009). “The substantial
evidence standard requires no more than such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Moore v. Colvin, 743
F.3d 1118, 1120 (7th Cir. 2014). The ALJ is obligated to
consider all relevant medical evidence and cannot simply
cherry-pick facts that support a finding of nondisability
while ignoring evidence that points to a disability finding.
Denton v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 419, 425 (7th Cir. 2010).
If evidence contradicts the ALJ's conclusions, the ALJ
must confront that evidence and explain why it was rejected.
Moore, 743 F.3d at 1123. The ALJ, however, need not
mention every piece of evidence, so long as she builds a
logical bridge from the evidence to his conclusion.
Pepper v. Colvin, 712 F.3d 351, 362 (7th Cir. 2013).
argues she is unable to work due to her spine disorder and
disabling pain. First, Chandler argues that the ALJ
erroneously found she could perform light level work, because
it is based on her layperson opinion. The Magistrate Judge
first notes that Chandler's argument fails to acknowledge
restrictions the ALJ added to the light level. While the ALJ
found Chandler is able to perform light work, the ALJ also
found this ability “has been impeded by additional
limitations” listed in the RFC. [Filing No. 13-2,
at ECF p. 20.] Thus, the Magistrate Judge includes the
RFC restrictions when considering Chandler's argument.
contends that she cannot perform light work because it
requires her to stand 6 hours in an 8 hour workday. Chandler
argues that this is contrary to Dr. Nace's opinion that
she cannot stand for more than 60 minutes at a time.
[Filing No. 13-10, at ECF p. 67.] However, the RFC
limits Chandler to work that “would allow her the
option of alternating between sitting and standing positions
every 45 minutes without leaving the work site or ceasing
work activity.” [Filing No. 13-2, at ECF p.
17.] This is consistent with the standing restriction in
Dr. Nace's opinion. Thus, Chandler's argument fails.
the conclusion Chandler can perform work is not based on the
ALJ's layperson opinion. The Commissioner points out that
the ALJ cited four medical opinions supporting the conclusion
that Chandler could perform some light work. The ALJ gave
significant weight to Dr. Gasiewicz, who opined that Chandler
could perform normal walking, sitting, squatting, bending,
and manipulation. [Filing No. 13-7, at ECF p. 15.]
The ALJ gave significant weight to Dr. Rice, who examined
Chandler and found that despite some mild spinal tenderness,
Chandler had a full range of motion. [Filing No. 13-7, at
ECF p. 78-80.] The ALJ also discussed the opinions of
Dr. Corcoran, who determined Chandler could perform medium
work, and Dr. Fife, who determined Chandler could perform
light work. [Filing No. 13-3, at ECF pp.
6-7, 26-28.] The ALJ sufficiently supports her
conclusion with this evidence. Thus, the Magistrate Judge
finds no error.
argues that the ALJ erroneously rejected her testimony of
chronic pain because it was based on subjective complaints.
However, mere subjectivity was not the ALJ's reason for
rejecting Chandler's testimony. The ALJ found that
“[t]he record does not support the claimant's
subjective complaints of pain.” [Filing No. 13-2,
at ECF p. 19.] This evidences two things. First, the
ALJ's credibility determination was based on a review of
the record. Second, the ALJ did not ignore Chandler's
Commissioner argues the regulations dictate subjective
symptomatology alone cannot be the basis for a finding of
disability. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1529(b). Chandler disagrees,
relying on Carradine v. Barnhart, 360 F.3d 751, 753
(7th Cir. 2004), to contend that subjective evidence can
itself be sufficient. The Carradine court explained
that “in certain situations, pain alone can be
disabling, even when its existence is unsupported by
objective evidence.” Id. However, the
Carradine court also explained that a review of an
ALJ's credibility determination is highly limited because
the reviewing court lacks direct access to the witnesses,
full immersion in the case, and the ALJ's experience with
Social Security cases. Id. The Carradine
court reiterated a need for medical evidence. “A
claimant's subjective testimony supported by medical
evidence that satisfies the pain standard is itself
sufficient to support a finding of disability.”
Id. (quotations omitted). Chandler's argument
based on Carradine misses the mark. While
Carradine explains that subjective evidence alone
can be sufficient to establish a disability, it does not
stand for overturning the ALJ's credibility determination
based on subjective evidence the ALJ found was not credible.
determinations are entitled to special deference and are only
reversed if they are patently wrong. Jones v.
Astrue,623 F.3d 1155, 1160 (7th Cir. 2010). Chandler
does not argue the ALJ's determination is patently wrong.
Chandler does not point to medical evidence corroborating her
subjective complaints of spinal pain. The ALJ determined that
the record does not support her subjective complaints. As a
result, the Magistrate Judge has no ...