United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
RICHARD A. EVELAND, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
R. CHERRY MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on an Amended Complaint [DE 5],
filed by Plaintiff Richard A. Eveland on June 7, 2016, and
Plaintiff's Brief in Support of Reversing the Decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security [DE 19], filed by
Plaintiff on December 27, 2016. Plaintiff requests that the
October 9, 2014 decision of the Administrative Law Judge
denying his claim for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income be reversed and remanded for
further proceedings. On April 4, 2017, the Commissioner filed
a response, and Plaintiff filed a reply on May 10, 2017. For
the following reasons, the Court grants Plaintiff's
request for remand.
2011, Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance
benefits and supplemental security income, alleging
disability since December 28, 2010, when he was involved in a
motor vehicle accident. The application was denied initially
and on reconsideration. After a hearing at Plaintiff's
request, an administrative law judge issued an unfavorable
decision, which was subsequently remanded by the Appeals
Council for a new hearing. On October 9, 2014, Administrative
Law Judge Mario G. Silva (“ALJ”) held a hearing.
In attendance at the hearing were Plaintiff, Plaintiff's
non-attorney representative, an impartial vocational expert,
and Robert B. Sklaroff, M.D., an impartial medical expert. On
November 19, 2014, the ALJ issued a written decision denying
benefits, making the following findings:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2016.
2. The claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity
during the following periods: August 19, 2013 through
February 2, 2014.
3. However, there has been a continuous 12-month period(s)
during which the claimant did not engage in substantial
gainful activity. The remaining findings address the
period(s) the claimant did not engage in substantial gainful
4. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
anxiety, panic attacks, adjustment disorder, right ear
vestibulopathy, and memory impairment.
5. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
6. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant had the residual
functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all
exertional levels but with the following nonexertional
limitations: He must avoid all exposure to unprotected
heights and to extreme heat. He is unable to climb ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds. The claimant is able to understand,
remember, and carry out simple instructions (with a GED
reasoning level of 1); to make judgments on simple
work-related decisions; and to respond to usual work
situations and to changes in a routine work setting. He
requires an environment where he would have no more than
superficial interaction with the public, but no direct
interactions with the public; and only occasional interaction
with coworkers and supervisors. The work must be able to be
done at a flexible pace (i.e., an environment free of
production rate pace where there would be no tandem tasks or
teamwork where one production step is dependent upon a prior
7. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work.
8. The claimant was born in 1963 and was 47 years old, which
is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged
disability onset date.
9. The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English.
10. Transferability of job skills is not material to the
determination of disability because using the
Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding
that the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or
not the claimant has transferable job skills.
11. Considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that the claimant can perform.
12. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from December 18, 2010, through
the date of this decision.
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review,
leaving the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981,
416.1481. Plaintiff filed this civil action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) for review of the Agency's decision.
parties filed forms of consent to have this case assigned to
a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all further
proceedings and to order the entry of a final judgment in
this case. Therefore, this Court has jurisdiction to decide
this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and 42 U.S.C.
Social Security Act authorizes judicial review of the final
decision of the agency and indicates that the
Commissioner's factual findings must be accepted as
conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Thus, a court reviewing the findings of an ALJ
will reverse only if the findings are not supported by
substantial evidence or if the ALJ has applied an erroneous
legal standard. See Briscoe v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d
345, 351 (7th Cir. 2005). Substantial evidence consists of
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Schmidt v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 737, 744 (7th Cir.
2005) (quoting Gudgel v. Barnhart, 345 F.3d 467, 470
(7th Cir. 2003)).
reviews the entire administrative record but does not
reconsider facts, re-weigh the evidence, resolve conflicts in
evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ.
See Boiles v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 421, 425 (7th Cir.
2005); Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 869 (7th
Cir. 2000); Butera v. Apfel, 173 F.3d 1049, 1055
(7th Cir. 1999). Thus, the question upon judicial review of
an ALJ's finding that a claimant is not disabled within
the meaning of the Social Security Act is not whether the
claimant is, in fact, disabled, but whether the ALJ
“uses the correct legal standards and the decision is
supported by substantial evidence.” Roddy v.
Astrue, 705 F.3d 631, 636 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing
O'Connor-Spinner v. Astrue, 627 F.3d 614, 618
(7th Cir. 2010); Prochaska v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d
731, 734-35 (7th Cir. 2006); Barnett v. Barnhart,
381 F.3d 664, 668 (7th Cir. 2004)). “[I]f the
Commissioner commits an error of law, ” the Court may
reverse the decision “without regard to the volume of
evidence in support of the factual findings.” White
v. Apfel, 167 F.3d 369, 373 (7th Cir. 1999) (citing
Binion v. Chater, 108 F.3d 780, 782 (7th Cir.
minimum, an ALJ must articulate his analysis of the evidence
in order to allow the reviewing court to trace the path of
his reasoning and to be assured that the ALJ considered the
important evidence. See Scott v. Barnhart, 297 F.3d
589, 595 (7th Cir. 2002); Diaz v. Chater, 55 F.3d
300, 307 (7th Cir. 1995); Green v. Shalala, 51 F.3d
96, 101 (7th Cir. 1995). An ALJ must “‘build an
accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to [the]
conclusion' so that [a reviewing court] may assess the
validity of the agency's final decision and afford [a
claimant] meaningful review.” Giles v. Astrue,
483 F.3d 483, 487 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Scott,
297 F.3d at 595)); see also O'Connor-Spinner,
627 F.3d at 618 (“An ALJ need not specifically address
every piece of evidence, but must provide a ‘logical
bridge' between the evidence and his
conclusions.”); Zurawski v. Halter,
245 F.3d 881, 889 (7th Cir. 2001) (“[T]he ALJ's
analysis must provide some glimpse into the reasoning behind
[the] decision to deny benefits.”).
eligible for disability benefits, a claimant must establish
that he suffers from a “disability” as defined by
the Social Security Act and regulations. The Act defines
“disability” as an inability to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment that can be
expected to result in death or that has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
twelve months. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A),
1382c(a)(3)(A). To be found disabled, the claimant's
impairment must not only prevent him from doing his previous
work, but considering his age, education, and work
experience, it must also prevent him from engaging in any
other type of substantial gainful activity that exists in
significant numbers in the economy. 42 U.S.C. §§
423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B); 20 C.F.R. §§
claimant alleges a disability, Social Security regulations
provide a five-step inquiry to evaluate whether the claimant
is entitled to benefits. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). The steps are: (1) Is the
claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity? If yes, the
claimant is not disabled, and the claim is denied; if no, the
inquiry proceeds to step two; (2) Does the claimant have an
impairment or combination of impairments that are severe? If
no, the claimant is not disabled, and the claim is denied; if
yes, the inquiry proceeds to step three; (3) Do(es) the
impairment(s) meet or equal a listed impairment in the
appendix to the regulations? If yes, the claimant is
automatically considered disabled; if no, then the inquiry
proceeds to step four; (4) Can the claimant do the
claimant's past relevant work? If yes, the claimant is
not disabled, and the claim is denied; if no, then the
inquiry proceeds to step five; (5) Can the claimant perform
other work given the claimant's residual functional