United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SIMON, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Michael Skorup appeals the Social Security
Administration's decision to deny his application for
Child's Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security
Income. An administrative law judge found that Skorup was not
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.
Because the ALJ did not sufficiently articulate her reasons
for denying the application, I will remand the matter back to
was 22 years old at the time of his hearing. [A.R. at
20.]. Throughout his life, he has suffered from
several mental health issues, and has been diagnosed with a
schizoaffective disorder. [Id. at 42.] He was in
special education through the majority of his schooling and
never engaged in substantial gainful employment.
[Id.] Between 2002 and 2011, he suffered a twelve
point loss in IQ. [Id.]
his life, Skorup has received treatment for mental health
issues from a cascade of medical professionals. First, in
2001, Dr. Joyce Scully diagnosed the ten-year old Skorup with
early onset Bipolar Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder.
[Id. at 512-513]. Between March 2007 and February
2008, Skorup received mental health treatment at the Madison
Center from Dr. Linda Finn, who identified
“oppositional and defiant behavior” and
“extreme reactive emotional/behavior reactions”
in Skorup. [Id. at 296]. In 2010, at the Otis Bowen
Center, Dr. Umamaheswara Kalpatapu diagnosed Skorup with
Bipolar Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder, noting that he would likely “require constant
medication for the remainder of his life.”
[Id. at 360.] ¶ 2011, Dr. Alan Wax conducted a
clinical interview and diagnosed Skorup with Attention
Deficit Disorder and assigned a GAF score of 50.
[Id. at 425.] GAF stands for global assessment of
functioning and it is a common scale used to measure
psychological functioning of an individual. A score between
41 and 50 signifies “serious symptoms.” Over the
years, Skorup's condition ebbed and flowed as medical
practitioners sometimes identified improvements and sometimes
identified regressions. [Id. at 398, 400, 408.]
January 2013 examination, Dr. Cadwell identified improvement
in Skorup, diagnosing him with a mood disorder not otherwise
specified and a GAF score of 55, though Dr. Cadwell also
identified “continued challenges in the home in terms
of [Skorup] completing basic activities of daily
living.” [Id. at 435-436.] Similarly,
therapists identified fluctuating moods when examining
Skorup, noting him one day as “mild, ” and
“manic” on another. [Id. at 498, 500.]
Indeed, on August 13, 2013, a therapist noted Skorup's
mood and affect are “changeable and unpredictable,
” that “he will go from happy to upset to
laughing in the course of a sentence.” [Id. at
506]. As of April 2013, Skorup was taking at least four
medications: Abilify, Cogentin, Lamictal, and Trazodone.
[Id. at 447.] It is clear that Skorup suffers from
mental illness. But the issue before the ALJ was whether his
maladies are severe enough to make him “disabled”
for purposes of Social Security benefits.
filed an application for Child's Insurance Benefits and
Supplemental Security income on December 3, 2012.
[Id. at 18.] In both applications, Skorup alleged
disability beginning on September 1, 1999. [Id.] On
January 30, 2013, both claims were denied initially and upon
reconsideration on April 19, 2013. [Id.]. Skorup
filed a written request for a hearing at which he testified.
[Id.] Andrew Skorup, the claimant's father, and
Richard Riedl, a vocational expert, also testified.
[Id.] The ALJ ultimately denied benefits in a
written opinion. [Id. at 18-31.]
hearing, Skorup testified that his mental health issues
persist into the present day. Skorup testified that he has
not applied for a job because he “can't pay
attention long enough, ” “gets distracted easily,
” and can only pay attention to something for about
five minutes. [Id. at 44-46.] Skorup further
testified that his father has to remind him to take his
medication and that he depends on his father to drive him
because he “can't pay attention long enough”
to get a driver's license. [Id. at 46-47.] He
also testified that he can perform basic chores like doing
laundry, but that he could not mow the lawn or use the stove
without his father's supervision. [Id. at
49-50.] Skorup testified that he can help with babysitting
and that he can fetch tools while his friends are doing wood
work. [Id. at 57-58.] Skorup spends most of his day
playing computer games and using Facebook, though he
testified he does not know how write a full post on Facebook.
[Id. at 54-55.]
dad confirmed much of what Skorup had to say. He told the ALJ
that he has to supervise his son when he mows the lawn and
that he has to remind him to take his medications and clean
himself. [Id. at 59-60.] Further, he testified that
his son does not actually babysit by himself and that the
neighbors are home when his son helps out. He also testified
that his son “never finished” any job he was
hired to do, like raking leaves for the neighbors.
[Id. at 61.]
Step three of the familiar five step process used by the
Social Security Administration, the ALJ concluded that Skorup
has the following severe impairments: mood disorder,
schizoaffective disorder, ADHD, and obesity. [Id. at
20.] But those impairments do not meet or medically equal the
severity of one of the listed impairments. [Id.] The
ALJ next determined that Skorup has the residual functional
capacity to perform medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R.
404.1567(b). [Id. at 23.] And then, based on the
RFC, the ALJ concluded that considering the Skorup's age,
education, work experience, and residual funcational
capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in
the national economy that Skorup can perform and that a
finding of “not disabled” is appropriate.
evaluating Skorup's arguments as to how the ALJ erred, I
must keep in mind that judicial review of the
Commissioner's decision is limited. If an ALJ's
findings of fact are supported by “substantial
evidence, ” then they must be sustained. See
42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Overman v. Astrue, 546 F.3d
456, 462 (7th Cir. 2008). Substantial evidence consists of
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Nelms
v. Astrue, 553 F.3d 1093, 1097 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)).
This has also been described as sufficient evidence to form a
“logical bridge” to the ALJ's conclusions.
See, e.g., Terry v. Astrue, 580 F.3d 471,
475 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, the ALJ's reasoning
must be sufficiently articulated to permit meaningful review.
See Steele v. Barnhart, 290 F.3d 936, 940 (7th Cir.
2002). “[W]hat matters are the reasons articulated
by the ALJ.” Jelinek v. Astrue, 662
F.3d 805, 812 (7th Cir. 2011) (emphasis in the original).
with Skorup's claim that the ALJ's Step Three finding
is not supported by substantial evidence. Because this case
involves mental health issues, the Listings that are issue
for the Step Three analysis are Listings 12.02, 12.03 and
12.04. The arcane inquiry for these all three of these
Listings is, in part, the same. For all three Listings, the
Step Three inquiry consists of two parts. First, the ALJ must
consider if the plaintiff satisfies at least two of the four
so-called “paragraph B” criteria. Second, the ALJ
must consider if the plaintiff satisfies the “paragraph
C” criteria. The plaintiff can qualify for benefits if
he satisfies either the “paragraph B”
criteria or the “paragraph C” criteria.
While the ALJ made findings for each of the “paragraph
B” criteria, she failed to make adequate findings for
all of the “paragraph C” criteria.
made findings on each of the “paragraph B”
criteria, which allow a claimant to qualify if he ...