United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
DAWN R. CSILLAG, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON PLAINTIFF'S BRIEF IN
SUPPORT OF COMPLAINT FOR REVIEW
Baker United States Magistrate Judge Southern District of
Dawn R. Csillag applied for disability insurance benefits in
July 2013, alleging disability beginning on June 26, 2013.
Her claim was denied initially and upon
reconsideration.Csillag, represented by counsel, appeared and
testified at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge on
December 2, 2014. On February 20, 2015, the ALJ issued her
decision, finding Csillag not disabled.
one, the ALJ found that Csillag has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date.
[Filing No. 8-2 at ECF p. 18.] At step two, the ALJ
found that Csillag has the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease, Morton's Neuroma, and plantar
fasciitis of both feet. [Id.] The ALJ also
determined that Csillag has a non-severe cardiac impairment.
[Id. at 18-19.] At step three, the ALJ concluded
that no impairment or combination of impairments meets or
equals a listing. [Id. at 19.]
four, the ALJ found that Csillag has the residual functional
capacity to perform sedentary work, except she can never
climb ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes or scaffolds; she can
occasionally balance, stoop, crouch, kneel, and crawl; she
can have occasional exposure to wetness and slippery, uneven
surfaces; and she requires an assistive device to walk.
[Filing No. 8-2 at ECF pp. 19-20.] Based on this RFC
finding, Csillag's age, education, and work experience,
and testimony from a vocational expert, the ALJ determined
that Csillag was able to perform work that exists in
significant numbers in the national economy such as document
preparer, ticket checker, and final assembler. [Id. at
25-26.] Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Csillag was
not disabled. [Id. at 26.] The Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review, and this appeal
Standard of Review
Court must uphold the ALJ's decision if it is supported
by substantial evidence and applies the correct legal
standard. Summers v. Berryhill, 864 F.3d 523, 526
(7th Cir. 2017).
raises three main arguments on appeal, but the first is
outcome determinative, so it is the only one discussed in
this decision. Csillag argues that the ALJ failed to
explain the finding that Csillag's impairments do not
meet or equal Listing 1.04 and failed to obtain a medical
opinion on the issue of whether Csillag equals that listing.
The Magistrate Judge agrees that the ALJ erred at step three
by failing to obtain an updated medical opinion on medical
equivalence and this error requires a remand.
must consider a medical expert's opinion on the issue of
whether a claimant's impairment equals a listing.
Barnett v. Barnhart, 381 F.3d 664, 670 (7th Cir.
2004). The record contains two separate Disability
Determination Transmittal reports signed by state agency
medical physicians on August 23, 2013 and October 28, 2013.
[Filing No. 8-3 at ECF pp. 2-3.] The physicians
reviewed Csillag's medical records and concluded that she
was not disabled. The ALJ may properly rely on the opinions
of these medical experts in deciding whether Csillag meets or
equals a listing. See Scheck v. Barnhart,
357 F.3d 697, 700 (7th Cir. 2004). However, under a Social
Security Ruling in effect at the time of the ALJ's
decision, but since rescinded, an ALJ “must obtain an
updated medical opinion from a medical expert ... [w]hen
additional medical evidence is received that ... may change
the State agency medical … consultant's finding
that the impairment(s) is not equivalent in severity to any
impairment in the Listing of Impairments.” SSR 96-6p.
cites several pieces of medical evidence that post-date the
state agency physicians' findings that she did not meet
or equal a listing:
(1) An August 31, 2013 MRI of her lumbar
spine which showed, among other things, generalized disc
bulge and moderate disc protrusion at ¶ 5-S1 with mild
left SI impingement and minimal lower lumbar facet
degeneration. [Filing No. 8-12 at ECF pp. 45-46].
(2) Her treating physician Dr. Kurt
Hull's record from September 13, 2013, noting that
Csillag's MRI showed “degenerative disc disease at
¶ 5-S1 with nerve root involvement” and that her
symptoms, including fatigue, low back muscle pain, stiffness
in the morning, and tingling and numbness in both legs
“are consistent with this diagnosis.” [Filing
No. 8-12 at ECF p. 344.] Csillag was treated with a
lumbar epidural steroid injection. [Filing No. 8-13 at
ECF p. 21.]
(3) A November 22, 2013 MRI of Csillag's
cervical spine showed mild to possibly moderate central
spinal stenosis at ¶ 5-6 with possible mild chronic
impingement of exiting left C6 nerve root and minimal to
possibly mild central spinal stenosis ...