Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Cooper v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 21, 2017

GLENN A. COOPER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1]Defendant.

          ORDER OVERRULING OBJECTIONS TO MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          SARAH EVANS BARKER, JUDGE

         This is an action for judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, finding Plaintiff Glenn A. Cooper not entitled to social security supplemental insurance (“SSI”) and disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423(d), 1382(a). The Commissioner has filed a timely objection to the Report and Recommendation by Magistrate Judge Mark J. Dinsmore that the Commissioner's decision be reversed and remanded. For the reasons explained in this Order, we OVERRULE the Commissioner's objections, ADOPT the conclusions of the Magistrate Judge, and REMAND this case for further consideration.

         Standard for Proving Disability

         To be eligible for SSI or DIB, a claimant like Mr. Cooper must have a disability defined by 42 U.S.C. § 423 as an “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” In general, the claimant bears the burden of providing evidence that he is disabled, and he must show through record evidence that an impairment from which he suffers meets all applicable criteria. See, e.g., Ribaudo v. Barnhart, 458 F.3d 580, 583 (7th Cir. 2006). The Commissioner acting by and through an ALJ conducts a five-step analysis to make an eligibility determination: (1) if the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, he is not disabled despite his medical condition and other factors; (2) if the claimant does not have a “severe” impairment (i.e., one that significantly limits his ability to perform basic work activities), he is not disabled; (3) the Commissioner then determines whether the claimant's impairment or a combination thereof meets or medically equals any impairment appearing in the Listing of Impairments at 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, App. 1, and whether the impairment meets the twelve-month duration requirement; if so, the claimant is disabled; (4) if the claimant can perform his past relevant work given his Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”), he is not disabled; and (5) if the claimant can perform any other work in the national economy, he is not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520.

         Applicable Standard of Review

         The Court reviews the Commissioner's denial of benefits to determine whether it was supported by substantial evidence or is the result of an error of law. Pepper v. Colvin, 712 F.3d 351, 361-62 (7th Cir. 2015). “Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Dixon v. Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1176 (7th Cir. 2001). An ALJ's decision must be based upon consideration of “all the relevant evidence, ” without ignoring probative factors. Herron v. Shalala, 19 F.3d 329, 333 (7th Cir. 1994). In other words, the ALJ need not address every piece of evidence in her decision, but she cannot ignore a line of evidence that undermines her conclusions, and she must trace the path of her reasoning and connect the evidence to her findings and conclusions. Arnett v. Astrue, 676 F.3d 586, 592 (7th Cir. 2012). We confine the scope of our review to the rationale offered by the ALJ. See SEC v. Chenery Corp., 318 U.S. 80, 93-95 (1943); Tumminaro v. Astrue, 671 F.3d 629, 632 (7th Cir. 2011).

         When a party raises specific objections to elements of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the district judge reviews those elements de novo, determining for herself whether the Commissioner's decision as to those issues is supported by substantial evidence or was the result of an error of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). The district judge “makes the ultimate decision to adopt, reject, or modify” the report and recommendation, and it need not accept any portion as binding; the [judge] may, however, defer to those conclusions of the report and recommendation to which timely objections have not been raised by a party. See Schur v. L.A. Weight Loss Ctrs, Inc., 577 F.3d 752, 759-61 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Background and Procedural History[2]

         Mr. Cooper filed an application for SSI and DBI on March 11, 2013, asserting that he suffered from nerve damage and pinched nerves in his neck, pain in his right shoulder and neck, headaches and migraines, and muscle spasms. Record [Docket No. 14-2] at 158. After the Social Security Administration denied Mr. Cooper's applications for DIB and SSI initially and on reconsideration, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) engaged in the sequential five-step analysis and concluded that Mr. Cooper was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act for the relevant period of time. The ALJ's dispositive findings were that although Mr. Cooper was severely impaired by degenerative disc disease, headaches, and obesity, his disc disease did not meet or medically equal Listing 1.00 for musculoskeletal impairments and, although he was incapable of performing his past relevant work, there were certain “sedentary” jobs in the national economy available to him notwithstanding his limitations. R. at 19-30. The ALJ did not mention in her discussion of Mr. Cooper's degenerative disc disease any sublisting within 1.00, nor did she specifically address whether Mr. Cooper's headaches and migraines met or were medically equivalent to any listed impairment. R. at 21-22.

         Mr. Cooper sought further review, and the Appeals Council denied his request on September 14, 2015. R. at 1-4. At this point, the Commissioner's decision became final, Varga v. Colvin, 794 F.3d 809, 813 (7th Cir. 2015), and Mr. Cooper timely exercised his right to judicial review of the Commissioner's adverse decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Before this court, Mr. Cooper argued-in what is relevant to this appeal-that the ALJ failed to (1) consider his migraines under Listing 11.03; (2) obtain a medical opinion regarding the Listing considerations; (3) discuss his headaches in relation to his ability to perform and maintain employment; and (4) address the impact on his ability to work caused by the side effects of his medication. Pl.'s Br. [Docket No. 17] at 9-10.

         The case was referred to Magistrate Judge Dinsmore for initial consideration. On August 9, 2016, Magistrate Judge Dinsmore issued a Report and Recommendation that the Commissioner's decision be reversed and remanded. Specifically, Magistrate Judge Dinsmore identified at least five independent grounds for remand to correct omissions in the ALJ's analysis and to allow the ALJ to consider evidence that she apparently ignored. Docket No. 20 at 4-15. This case is now before the Court on the Commissioner's Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation.

         Discussion

         This appeal involves the third and fourth steps of the sequential evaluation process. The third step of the sequential evaluation process addresses whether a claimant's impairment or a combination thereof meets or medically equals any impairment set out in the Listing of Impairments at 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, App. 1. Step four addresses whether a claimant is capable of performing past relevant work on a regular and continuing basis despite any impairment-related limitations, which is determined through an RFC assessment. 20 C.F.R. § 1545.

         The Commissioner raises two objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation. Def.'s Obj. [Docket No. 21] at 1-3. First, according to the Commissioner, there was no error in the ALJ's use of medical expert opinions with regard to determining whether Mr. Cooper's headaches and migraines met or equaled a listed impairment. Def.'s Obj. at 1-2. Second, the Commissioner contends that the Magistrate Judge incorrectly interpreted the ALJ's decision regarding the side effects of Mr. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.