United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
DAWN M. RARDIN, Plaintiff,
NANCY P. BERRYHILL, Defendant.
ORDER OVERRULING OBJECTIONS TO MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
EVANS BARKER, JUDGE
an action for judicial review of the final decision of
Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration, finding Plaintiff Dawn M.
Rardin 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). Ms. Rardin has appealed the adverse
determination, which was referred to Magistrate Judge
Magistrate Judge Matthew P. Brookman for issuance of a Report
and Recommendation. The Report and Recommendation proposes
that the Commissioner's decision be remanded for further
analysis in keeping with the applicable law. The Commissioner
has filed a timely objection. For the reasons explained in
this Order, we OVERRULE the Commissioner's
objections, ADOPT the conclusions of the Magistrate
Judge, and REMAND this case to the Social Security
Administration for further consideration.
for Proving Disability
eligible for SSI or DIB, a claimant such as Ms. Rardin must
have a disability as defined by 42 U.S.C. § 423, that
is, 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.” The claimant bears
the burden of providing evidence that she is disabled, and
must show through record evidence that an impairment from
which she 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 in making an eligibility
determination: (1) if the claimant is engaged in substantial
gainful activity, she 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), she 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 her past relevant
work given his Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”), she is not disabled; and (5) if the
claimant can perform any other work in the national economy,
she is not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520.
This case presents a “step three” appeal.
Standard of Review
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.
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). We have conducted a de
novo review here.
and Procedural History
Rardin maintains that she became disabled in January 2010 at
age forty-eight. On November 28, 2012, she filed an
application for SSI and DBI, alleging that she suffered from
depression along with a number of physical impairments
identified more fully below. Docket No. 13-2 (Tr.) at 34-74.
The documents of record reflect, inter alia, that
Ms. Rardin has an eighth grade education and experiences
difficulty with following instructions and paying attention
for longer than 30-minute periods. Docket No. 13-3 (R.) at
the Social Security Administration's initial denial of
Ms. Rardin's applications for DIB and SSI and on
reconsideration, she appeared at a hearing during which an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) engaged in the
sequential five-step analysis, concluding that Ms. Rardin was
not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act
for the relevant period of time. Docket No. 13-2 (Dec.) at
15-21. The ALJ's dispositive finding was that, although
Ms. Rardin was severely impaired by lumbar degenerative disc
disease, osteoarthritis in her left shoulder, tendonitis
following arthroscopic surgery, chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease, secondary tobacco use disorder, coronary artery
disease and hypertension, obesity, fibromyalgia, and an
affect and anxiety disorder, these impairments, neither
individually, nor in combination, did not meet or medically
equal any of the listed impairments at 20 C.F.R. pt. 404,
subpt. P, App. 1. Dec. at 18-21. This appeal also challenges
the ALJ's credibility-oriented finding that “the
claimant's failure to follow her prescribed regimen
detracted from her allegations regarding the severity and
limiting nature of her severe musculoskeletal
impairments.” Dec. at 24.
Rardin sought further review, culminating in the Appeals
Council denial of her request on January 12, 2016. R. at 2.
At this point, the Commissioner's decision became final,
Varga v. Colvin, 794 F.3d 809, 813 (7th Cir. 2015),
and Ms. Rardin timely exercised her right to judicial review
of the Commissioner's adverse decision under 42 U.S.C.
this court, Ms. Rardin has argued that: (1) the ALJ erred by
discrediting her reports of subjective complaints regarding
fibromylgia; (2) the ALJ “unjustly accused Rardin of
alleged noncompliance with treatment”; (3) the ALJ
failed to provide an explanation regarding the finding that
Rardin's impairments do not meet or equal Listing 1.04
and to obtain medical opinion as to the possible equaling of
this with other conditions set out in the Listings. Docket
No. 16 (Pl.'s Br.) at 14-32.
case was referred by this judge to Magistrate Judge Brookman
for initial decision. On February 6, 2016, Magistrate Judge
Brookman issued a Report and Recommendation finding that the
Commissioner's decision should be remanded under sentence
four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for further consideration.
The Magistrate concluded that the ALJ did not sufficiently
analyze whether Ms. Rardin's fibromyalgia met or
medically equaled one of the listings (Docket No. 23
(R&R) at 11-12) and erred in not determining whether good
cause for her non-compliance with treatment methods existed
before using it as a basis to discount her credibility
(id at 12-15). The Magistrate Judge also held that
the ALJ did not err in analyzing Ms. Rardin's subjective
complaints about fibromyalgia (id at 7-11); in
assessing her limitations in maintaining concentration,
persistence or pace, memory deficit, or severe daytime
fatigue (id at 15-19); or in concluding that Ms.
Rardin's impairments did not meet or equal listing 1.04,
a spinal disorder compromising, among other things the ...