United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
SCOTT T. NILES, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ORDER ON THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE.
Scott T. Niles (“Niles”), appeals the
Administrative Law Judge's decision denying his
applications for Social Security Disability Insurance
Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social
Security Act (“the Act”) and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the
Act. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C § 636, the Court referred the
matter to the Magistrate Judge (Filing No. 22), who
submitted his Report and Recommendation on June 16, 2017,
recommending that the decision of the Commissioner be
reversed and remanded for further consideration (Filing
No. 23). The Commissioner timely filed an Objection to
the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation
(Filing No. 24). For the reasons set forth below,
the Court OVERRULES the Commissioner's
Objection, ADOPTS the Report and
Recommendation, and REMANDS the decision of
the Commissioner for further consideration.
relevant procedural history and factual background of this
matter are set forth in detail in the Magistrate Judge's
Report and Recommendation (Filing No. 23) and the
parties briefs (Filing No. 19 and Filing No.
20) and thus will only be summarized in this Order.
filed an application for DIB on February 28, 2013, and for
SSI on March 2, 2013, alleging April 1, 2011, as the
disability onset date. In his disability applications, Niles
asserted the following impairments: depression, anxiety,
bipolar disorder, asthma, and obesity (Filing No. 17-3 at
14). His applications were denied initially on May 17,
2013, and again on reconsideration on July 1, 2013. Niles
timely requested a hearing on his applications, which was
held before Administrative Law Judge Ronald T. Jordan
(“ALJ”) on February 3, 2015. The ALJ then issued
his decision on February 19, 2015, denying Niles's
applications, having determined that he was not disabled.
Niles sought review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals
Council. On June 20, 2016, the Appeals Council denied
Niles's request to review the ALJ's decision, making
the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner
for purposes of judicial review.
timely filed his Complaint with the Court on August 18, 2016,
seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision.
On May 12, 2017, this Court issued an order referring the
matter to the Magistrate Judge for a Report and
Recommendation. The Magistrate Judge filed his Report and
Recommendation on June 16, 2017, recommending remand of the
case for further consideration. Thereafter, on June 28, 2017,
the Commissioner filed her Objection to the Report and
Recommendation, asserting that substantial evidence supported
the ALJ's decision and the decision was sufficiently
explained. Although not explicitly argued, the Commissioner
appears to assert that the Magistrate Judge improperly
reweighed the evidence when making his recommendation to
remand the case for further consideration.
was born in November 1972 and was 46 years old at the time of
his alleged disability onset date. He has suffered various
mental health impairments, including depression, anxiety, and
bipolar disorder, for a number of years. He has sought
treatment from mental health care providers through
counseling, individual therapy, group therapy, and medication
management. Niles's treatment has had varying degrees of
effectiveness over time. His treatment records show that he
has had times of compliance with medications and therapy and
other times when he has been less compliant with his
treatment plan. One of his treatment notes indicates that
Niles is seriously mentally ill and has attempted suicide
multiple times (Filing No. 17-7 at 27).
has a bachelor's degree and an employment history of
working as a social services aide, census taker, and security
guard. He has been involved in some volunteer work, and he
fairly regularly attends church. However, Niles's
activities of daily living and his ability to work have been
affected by his various mental health impairments. Thus, he
applied for SSI and DIB.
the Court reviews the Commissioner's decision, the
ALJ's findings of fact are conclusive and must be upheld
by this Court “so long as substantial evidence supports
them and no error of law occurred.” Dixon v.
Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1176 (7th Cir. 2001).
“Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. The Court may not reweigh the
evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ.
Overman v. Astrue, 546 F.3d 456, 462 (7th Cir.
2008). The ALJ “need not evaluate in writing every
piece of testimony and evidence submitted.” Carlson
v. Shalala, 999 F.2d 180, 181 (7th Cir. 1993). However,
the “ALJ's decision must be based upon
consideration of all the relevant evidence.” Herron
v. Shalala, 19 F.3d 329, 333 (7th Cir. 1994). To be
affirmed, the ALJ must articulate her analysis of the
evidence in her decision, and while she “is not
required to address every piece of evidence or testimony,
” she must “provide some glimpse into her
reasoning . . . [and] build an accurate and logical bridge
from the evidence to her conclusion.” Dixon,
270 F.3d at 1176. The Court “must be able to trace the
ALJ's path of reasoning” from the evidence to her
conclusion. Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 874
(7th Cir. 2000).
party raises specific objections to elements of a magistrate
judge's report and recommendation, the district court
reviews those elements de novo, determining for
itself whether the Commissioner's decision as to those
issues is supported by substantial evidence or was the result
of an error of law. See Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 72(b). The
district court “makes the ultimate decision to adopt,
reject, or modify the report and recommendation, and it need
not accept any portion as binding; the court may, however,
defer to those conclusions . . . to which timely objections
have not been raised by a party.” Sweet v.
Colvin, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 141893, at *3 (S.D. Ind.
Sept. 30, 2013) (citing Schur v. L.A. Weight Loss Ctrs.,
Inc., 577 F.3d 752, 759-61 (7th Cir. 2009)).
appeal of the ALJ's decision, Niles advanced two primary
arguments: (1) the ALJ did not adequately explain his
rationale for giving a treating physician's opinion
little weight, and (2) the ALJ erred by not utilizing a
portion of a consulting physician's functional capacity
assessment while utilizing another portion of this
this second argument, the Magistrate Judge explained that the
ALJ committed no error warranting remand because Niles
selectively quoted only a portion of the consulting
physician's assessment while ignoring the portion of the
assessment that supported the ALJ's analysis and
conclusion. Neither party objected to the Magistrate
Judge's recommendation regarding this second argument,
and there is no error of law or fact in the Magistrate
Judge's analysis and conclusion; therefore, the Court
adopts this portion of the Report and ...