United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
STACEY D. RATCLIFFE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
K. LaRue United States Magistrate Judge
on Judicial Review
D. Ratcliffe brings this action for review under 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) of the Commissioner's denial of her claim
for supplemental security income. For the following reasons,
the Commissioner's decision will be affirmed.
applied in August 2012 for supplemental security income,
alleging disability since January 2009 due to physical and
mental impairments, including post-traumatic stress disorder,
bipolar disorder, and depression. She only challenges the
Administrative Law Judge's decision with respect to her
mental impairments, so only those impairments are addressed
in this entry.
not Ratcliffe's first application for benefits. She
previously sought benefits and an Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ) issued a decision on June 16, 2011, denying her claim.
The district court affirmed. The determination that she was
not disabled on or before June 16, 2011, is final and not at
issue here. Thus, the focus in this case is on
Ratcliffe's condition after that date.
held a hearing at which Ratcliffe testified. She was working
part-time at a McDonald's restaurant, two and a half days
per week. [R. 36.] She worked as a crew trainer, cashier, and
lead worker with supervisory responsibilities. [R. 37.] She
worked 7-hour and 5-hour shifts. [R. 38.] She had been
working at McDonald's since 2012. [R. 41.] She earned
just over ten thousand dollars a year in 2012 and 2013.
[Id.] She declined full-time work, she stated,
because of her slow concentration and poor balance caused by
a lymphoma in her leg. [Id.]
time of the hearing, she was not receiving any mental health
treatment. [R. 42.] She had stopped taking psychotropic
medications in March 2014 and still was not taking any
medications for depression or any mental health issues.
[Id.] Yet she managed to work part-time. [R. 43.]
Ratcliffe testified that she gets irritated “a
lot” and “let things get to [her].” [R.
47.] She said she wants “to do something to somebody or
to [herself] because [she's] irritated.”
[Id.] But, she added, she doesn't.
[Id.] She said that she can't work full-time
because of her irritability and anxiety. [R. 49.]
found that although Ratcliffe worked after her application
date in August 2012, she had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity. [R. 14.] Nonetheless, the ALJ determined
that this work activity suggested greater capabilities than
she alleged. [Id.] Ratcliffe was found to have
severe impairments including depressive disorder, generalized
anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, but
none of these were considered to meet or equal the severity
of a listed impairment. [Id.] The ALJ determined
that Ratcliffe has the residual functional capacity to
perform a range of light work with limitations to account for
her mental impairments. [R. 18.] Given her age, high school
education, and residual functional capacity, the ALJ found
that Ratcliffe can perform jobs existing in the national
economy in significant numbers such as gate attendant, small
products assembler, and production assembler. [R. 23-24.]
Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Ratcliffe was not under a
disability under the Social Security Act since the date her
application for supplemental security income was filed. [R.
reviewing the ALJ's decision, the Court determines
whether it is supported by substantial evidence and whether
the ALJ applied the correct legal standards. See Stepp v.
Colvin, 795 F.3d 711, 718 (7th Cir. 2015); Roddy v.
Astrue, 705 F.3d 631, 636 (7th Cir. 2013). The Court
does not reweigh the evidence, resolve conflicts in the
record, make credibility determinations, or substitute its
own judgment for that of the ALJ. See Stepp, 795
F.3d at 718; Young v. Barnhart, 362 F.3d 995, 1001
(7th Cir. 2004). An ALJ need not mention every piece of
evidence, Arnett v. Astrue, 676 F.3d 586, 592 (7th
Cir. 2012); however, the ALJ but must build an accurate and
logical bridge from the evidence to his conclusions.
Varga v. Colvin, 794 F.3d 809, 813 (7th Cir. 2015).
makes a slew of arguments, but most of them are undeveloped,
unsupported, or both. She first argues that the ALJ ignored
or rejected evidence that proved she was disabled, yet she
fails to identify any specific evidence allegedly ignored or
rejected. She maintains that the ALJ erred in not giving
controlling weight to the opinions of her examining
physicians proving she was disabled and failed to provide a
basis for rejecting the evaluations of treating providers,
but again she fails to identify any specific opinion or any
particular evaluation at issue. The ALJ, Ratcliffe submits,
also misstated the evidence in order to minimize the severity
of her impairments. But again, she does not indicate what
evidence was misstated. And she fails to point out what
psychological evidence she claims contradicts the ALJ's
decision. All of these arguments are perfunctory and
undeveloped and therefore are waived. See, e.g.,
Crespo v. Colvin, 824 F.3d 667, 673 (7th Cir. 2016)
(“perfunctory and undeveloped arguments, and arguments
that are unsupported by pertinent authority, are
waived”); Griffin v. Bell, 694 F.3d 817, 822
(7th Cir. 2012) (“arguments raised for the first time
in a reply brief are deemed waived”).
also argues that she offered substantial evidence to prove
she was totally disabled due to psychiatric problems. Yet,
the Commissioner correctly observes that the
substantial-evidence argument in Ratcliffe's opening
brief is supported only by citation to evidence that predated
the Commissioner's prior, final decision concluding
Ratcliffe was not disabled on or before June 16, 2011. For
example, Ratcliffe refers to the GAF score of 45 that she was
given in May 2010 and the GAF score of 49 that she was given
in February 2010. [Pl.'s Br., doc. 22 at 11.]
She must point to evidence from the relevant time
period-after June 17, 2011. Further, her opening brief cites
no evidence to suggest that her psychiatric problems have
deteriorated since the Commissioner's prior decision.
See Abendroth v. Barnhart, 26 F.
App'x 580, 582-83 (7th Cir. 2002) (concluding that to
prevail on a second claim for disability, claimant had to
prove that his condition deteriorated to the point of
disability after the time considered in the first claim);
Thomas v. Colvin, No. 14 C 7900, 2016 WL
1298680, at *3 (N.D. Ill. April 4, 2016) (noting that the ALJ
properly “considered the question of disability only
with regard to Plaintiff's SSI claim beginning on [the
date of the previous ALJ denial]“). The question of
whether Ratcliffe was disabled under the Social Security Act
on or before June 16, 2011, has been conclusively and finally
decided. It is not at issue in this case. Her condition on or
before that date has relevance to this action only to the
extent it provides background for her condition after that
date. The issue before the ALJ in this case is whether
Ratcliffe was disabled on or after August 2, 2012, the date
she filed her second application for supplemental security
response to the Commissioner, Ratcliffe argues that the ALJ
overlooked evidence from the period after the date she filed
her current application. Specifically, she notes that she was
evaluated at Midtown Mental Health Clinic on June 21, 2012,
when she was unable to work because of anxiety. (The
“Statement of Facts” section of Ratcliffe's
opening brief mentions this evidence, but it is not mentioned
or relied on in the brief's “Argument”
section. [Pl.'s Br., doc. 22 at 5.]) In any
event, the ALJ did not overlook this evidence but instead her
written decision discussed Ratcliffe's treatment from
Midtown Mental Health. [See R. 16 (noting the
treating psychiatrist described Ratcliffe as calm and
cooperative with adequate judgment and insight), 20
(discussing Midtown Mental Health treatment notes).] An ALJ
is not required to mention every little bit of evidence in
the record. See, e.g., Arnett, 676 F.3d at
592. Although the June 21 treatment note indicates that
Ratcliffe has mental health issues, nothing in the note
establishes that she was disabled under the Social Security
Act due to her ...