United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division
Baker United States Magistrate Judge.
Milton Lue Prince appeals the Administrative Law Judge's
denial of her application for Social Security disability
benefits. Prince's appeal argues (1) the ALJ failed to
correctly determine Prince's residual functional capacity
based on the record; (2) the ALJ failed to give the correct
deference and weight to the examining physician's
findings; (3) the ALJ incorrectly evaluated the credibility
of Prince's statements regarding pain; and (4) the ALJ
committed harmful error by failing to investigate apparent
conflicts between the testimony of the vocational expert and
the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. For the reasons set
forth below, Prince's brief in support of appeal [Filing
No. 15] is denied, and the decision of the Commissioner is
alleges her disability began on January 3, 2013. Her claim
for benefits was denied originally and upon reconsideration.
On December 2, 2014, following a hearing, the ALJ concluded
Prince is not disabled.
one, the ALJ found Prince has not engaged in any substantial
gainful activity since the alleged onset date of the
disability. At step two, the ALJ found Prince suffered from
multiple severe impairments, including cervical spine
disorder associated with right arm pain, lumbar spine
disorder associated with right hip pain, right ulnar
disorder, depression, and anxiety. At step three, the ALJ
found that the combination of impairments did not meet or
equal a listing. At step four, the ALJ concluded Prince has
the RFC to:
perform a full range of light work as defined in 20 CFR
404.1567(b), except the claimant must avoid all climbing
ladders, ropes, and scaffolding and is limited to occasional
climbing of ramps and stairs, balancing, stooping, kneeling,
crouching, and crawling. The claimant must not perform
constant right upper extremity reaching, handling, fingering,
and feeling tasks, and must not perform any overhead reaching
tasks. Additionally, the claimant must avoid all dangerous
work hazards (including unprotected heights and exposed
machinery). Because of pain and mental health distractions
preventing detailed decision-making, the claimant is limited
to routine, uninvolved tasks not requiring a fast assembly
[Filing No. 13-2, at ECF p. 17.] Using this RFC, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff is unable to perform any past
relevant work. [Id. at p. 22.] However, a VE
testified that Prince can perform the work of an
inspector/hand packager, assembly machine tender, or
injection molding machine tender. [Id.] At step
five, the ALJ relied on the VE's testimony to conclude
Prince is not disabled. The Appeals Council denied
Prince's request for review, and this appeal followed.
Standard of Review
Court reviews decisions of the ALJ deferentially, and must
uphold it if supported by substantial evidence. Terry v.
Astrue, 580 F.3d 471, 475 (7th Cir. 2009). Substantial
evidence requires only such evidence “as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Moore v. Colvin, 743 F.3d 1118, 1120 (7th Cir.
2014). However, the ALJ may not ignore evidence contrary to
her finding, and the ALJ must consider all of the relevant
medical evidence. Denton v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 419,
425 (7th Cir. 2010). In doing so, the ALJ should confront
conflicting evidence and explain her reasons for rejection.
Moore, 743 F.3d at 1123. However, this does not
require the ALJ to mention every piece of evidence used to
reach her conclusion. Pepper v. Colvin, 712 F.3d
351, 362 (7th Cir. 2013). Instead, the ALJ's opinion must
only use the evidence to the extent that it builds a logical
bridge between the evidence and the conclusion. Id.
Mental Residual Functional Capacity Determination
argues the ALJ failed to adequately determine her RFC based
on the mental health evaluations and findings. Prince asserts
that the RFC fails to adequately include the finding of her
deficiencies in concentration, pace, and persistence. [Filing
No. 15 at ECF p. 21.] Prince contends the ALJ determination
that she could work “routine, uninvolved tasks not
requiring a fast assembly quota pace” is erroneous
because she did not provide a detailed assessment of the
evidence. [Filing No. 13-2, at ECF p. 18.]
Commissioner argues the RFC reflecting Prince's mental
health limitations is supported by substantial evidence, and
includes a sufficient explanation by the ALJ. [Filing No. 21,
at ECF p. 3.] The Commissioner asserts that the ALJ's RFC
determination evaluated and included all mental limitations
described in the record. The Commissioner argues the RFC is
sufficiently detailed and supported, and that Plaintiff is
attempting to read restrictions into the record that never
existed. [Filing No. 21, at ECF p. 4.]
ALJ's mental RFC is not erroneous. The RFC must describe
the most work Prince is able to do despite her limitations.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1545. Specifically, a mental RFC
requires the ALJ to give a “detailed assessment of the
individual's capacity to perform and sustain mental
activities which are critical to work performance.” SSR
85-16. All limits on work-related activity resulting from
mental impairments must be described in the mental RFC.
Id. However, this does not require the ALJ to
address every medical finding. O'Connor-Spinner v.
Astrue, 627 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2010). It is
sufficient for the ALJ to rely on a physician's narrative
describing their findings as a mental RFC so long as the RFC
adequately addresses their concerns. See Varga v.
Colvin, 794 F.3d 809, 816 (7th Cir. 2015).
RFC, the ALJ found Prince “has moderate limitations
regarding concentration” and limited her to
“routine, unskilled work not requiring a fast assembly
quota pace.” [Filing No. 13-2, at ECF p. 22.] The ALJ
supported this determination with evidence provided by state
agency psychological consultants, Dr. Hill and Dr. Neville,
who provided detailed narrative descriptions of Prince's
mental limitations. Specifically, Dr. Hill and Dr. Neville
explained that Prince's “attention/concentration
are moderately impacted but appear reasonable for semiskilled
tasks.” [Filing No. 13-3, at ECF p. 12, 38.]
Furthermore, both narratives found Prince could “relate
on at least a superficial basis . . . with co-workers and
supervisors” as well as ...