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 Lea Danielle Pulliam on August 31, 2015, and
Plaintiff's Brief [DE 16], filed by Plaintiff on March
10, 2016. Plaintiff requests that the April 21, 2014 decision
of the Administrative Law Judge denying her claim for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income be reversed and remanded for further proceedings. On
May 26, 2016, the Commissioner filed a response, and
Plaintiff filed a reply on June 9, 2016. For the following
reasons, the Court grants Plaintiff's request for remand.
filed an application for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income on October 15, 2012, alleging
disability since January 1, 2011. The claims were denied
initially and on reconsideration. Plaintiff filed a written
request for hearing, and on February 11, 2014, Administrative
Law Judge Mario G. Silva (“ALJ”) held a hearing.
In attendance at the hearing were Plaintiff, Plaintiff's
attorney, and an impartial vocational expert. On April 21,
2014, the ALJ issued a written decision denying benefits,
making the following findings:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through March 31, 2016.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since January 1, 2011, the alleged onset date.
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), discoid lupus
erythematosus, Raynaud's syndrome, peripheral artery
disease, and contracture of the right index and middle
4. 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.
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to lift and carry up to 10 pounds
occasionally and lighter objects frequently, stand and/or
walk for about 6 hours of an 8-hour workday, and sit for a
total of 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. The claimant should
never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds and never crawl,
but she can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance,
stoop, kneel, and crouch. The claimant is limited [to]
occasional overhead reaching with her right dominant upper
extremity. The claimant is limited to frequent handling with
her left upper extremity and occasional handling with her
right upper extremity. The claimant is limited to frequent
fingering with her left upper extremity and occasional
fingering with her right upper extremity. The claimant has a
clawed feature of the right dominant extremity involving the
right index and middle fingers and is unable to fully extend
these fingers. The claimant should avoid all exposure to
extreme cold and even moderate exposure to wetness and
6. The claimant has no past relevant work.
7. The claimant was born [in 1969] and was 41 years old,
which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the
alleged disability onset date.
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English.
9. Transferability of job skills is not an issue because the
claimant does not have past relevant work.
10. 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.
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from January 1, 2011, through the
date of this decision.
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review,
leaving the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981,
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 she 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. §§ 423(d)(1)(A),
1382c(a)(3)(A). To be found disabled, the claimant's
impairment must not only prevent her from doing her previous
work, but considering her age, education, and work
experience, it must also prevent her from engaging in any