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Knight v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division

June 29, 2017

LISA M. KNIGHT, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S BRIEF IN SUPPORT OF APPEAL

          Tim A. Baker United States Magistrate Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Lisa M. Knight appeals the Commissioner's denial of her application for Social Security benefits. Knight argues that the Administrative Law Judge erred at step four by giving insufficient weight to the treating physician's opinion without adequately considering all the factors set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c). [Filing No. 10-2, at ECF p. 17.] For the reasons below, the Court denies Knight's brief in support of appeal [Filing No. 14] and affirms the Commissioner's decision.

         II. Background

         Knight filed an application for disability insurance benefits alleging a disability onset date of February 13, 2009. The agency denied Knight's application initially and upon review. The ALJ held a hearing and issued a December 7, 2011, decision finding Knight was not disabled. Knight appealed, alleging in part that the ALJ erred by failing to provide an analysis of Dr. Dobbs' records and opinion. In April 2013, the Appeals Council granted Knight's request for review, remanding the case to the ALJ to evaluate Dr. Dobbs' opinion and to correct an additional vocational issue. The ALJ held another hearing in September 2013.

         On January 31, 2014, the ALJ again found that Knight was not disabled. At step one, the ALJ determined that Knight has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of February 13, 2009. At step two, the ALJ found Knight's severe impairments are psychogenic seizures, migraines, conversion disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and adjustment disorder with depressed mood. At step three, the ALJ concluded that these impairments do not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments. At step four, the ALJ determined Knight has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work with the following limitations:

[S]he can never crawl, balance, or climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; she can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch; and she can climb ramps and stairs no more than 15% of the workday. She should avoid all use of dangerous machinery and all exposure to unprotected heights. She is limited to no commercial driving and must avoid working in close proximity to hot cooking surface, open flames, and open water hazards. She is limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks. She can interact with the public no more than approximately 15% of the workday, but with no transactional interactions such as sales or negotiations. She is limited to no more than occasional interaction with coworkers or supervisors. She is limited to jobs in which changes in the work setting occur no more than approximately 15% of the workday. She can perform goal-oriented work, but no constant production rate pace work such as automated assembly line work.

[Filing No. 10-2, at ECF p. 9-10.]

         Based on this RFC, the ALJ found Knight is unable to perform any past relevant work. Relying on the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ found at step five that Knight can perform the work of an assembler, inspector, hand packager, and addresser. Thus, the ALJ concluded Knight is not disabled.

         The Appeals Council denied Knight's request for review in April 2016, making the ALJ's conclusion the Commissioner's final decision. This appeal followed.

         III. Standard of Review

         The Court must uphold the ALJ's decision so long as she supports her findings with substantial evidence, which is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Pepper v. Colvin, 712 F.3d 351, 362 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting McKinzey v. Astrue, 641 F.3d 884, 889 (7th Cir. 2011)). While the ALJ must consider all relevant medical evidence and avoid “cherry-picking” facts supporting a non-disability conclusion, she is not required to discuss every piece of evidence. Denton v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 419, 425 (7th Cir. 2010). The ALJ need only provide a logical bridge between the evidence and her conclusions. Roddy v. Astrue, 705 F.3d 631, 636 (7th Cir. 2013).

         IV. Discussion

         The only issue that Knight raises is whether the ALJ analyzed treating physician Dr. Dobbs' opinion according to the factors set forth in § 404.1527(c). If the ALJ determines that a treating doctor's opinion is not entitled to controlling weight, she must evaluate it and determine what weight to give it according to the factors set forth in § 404.1527(c)(2)-(6). Roddy v. Astrue, 705 F.3d 631, 637 (7th Cir. 2013). The factors are: (1) treatment relationship, (2) supportability, (3) consistency, (4) specialization, and (5) “other factors.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2)-(6). The ALJ's weight determination stands so long as the ALJ “minimally articulated” her reasons. Elder v. ...


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