United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division
DUSTY D. DAVIS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S BRIEF IN SUPPORT OF REQUEST
BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
deciding issue in this Social Security appeal is whether the
Administrative Law Judge adequately supported his conclusion
that Plaintiff Dusty Davis's condition did not medically
equal any listing. The Court's role is not to
second-guess an ALJ's determination- especially on close
calls. By the same token, however, the Court cannot make
factual determinations for the ALJ. As explained below, the
Court finds that the ALJ failed to adequately address medical
equivalence and grants Plaintiffs request for remand
[Filing No. 17] under sentence four of 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) for further consideration.
also argues that the ALJ failed to consider Plaintiffs
alleged obesity, erred in weighing medical sources and
assessing Plaintiffs credibility, and was overly selective in
citing evidence to support his residual functional capacity
conclusion without addressing evidence that favored
Plaintiff. On remand, the ALJ should reconsider these issues
in light of Plaintiff s arguments and changes the Social
Security Administration made while this appeal was pending.
November 2013, Plaintiff applied for Disability Insurance
Benefits and Supplemental Security Income claiming he had
been disabled since December 2011, due to kidney disease and
gouty arthropathy. Plaintiff claimed total disability because
he allegedly suffered nausea and vomiting for two to three
hours each morning, his legs swelled and hurt if he went too
long without elevating them, and his wrists and hands hurt,
all of which prevented him from working.
one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have substantial
gainful employment for the relevant period. In the second
step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had severe impairments,
chronic kidney disease and gouty arthropathy. Plaintiff
claims that he also had obesity.
three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not
meet or medically equal any listing under 20 C.F.R. §
Pt. 404, Subpart P, App. 1. Though the ALJ explained
that the evidence did not show Plaintiff met any listing, the
only mention of equivalence in his decision was in the
relevant subsection's heading. The hearing transcript
shows that the ALJ asked Dr. Lee Fischer his opinion
regarding the listings, and Dr. Fischer opined that Plaintiff
did not “meet or equal any of the listings.”
[Filing No. 14-2, at ECF p. 35, R. at 34.] Dr.
Fischer was the only physician to testify about the listings
at the hearing. However, the ALJ only referenced Dr. Fischer
in regard to Plaintiff's RFC.
step four discussion, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not
able to perform any past relevant work as a saw supervisor.
However, proceeding to step five, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff was not disabled because he can perform unskilled
or semi-skilled sedentary work, such as surveillance service
systems monitor, coupon counter, or order clerk.
he found Plaintiff had severe impairments, the ALJ concluded
Plaintiff's claimed symptoms had not been shown. Rather,
Plaintiff had the RFC to perform limited sedentary work. The
ALJ discounted Plaintiff's testimony, finding his
“statements concerning the intensity, persistence, and
limiting effects of [his] symptoms not entirely credible,
” citing specific medical appointments in which
Plaintiff failed to mention symptoms. [Filing No. 14-2,
at ECF p. 20-21, R. at 19-20.] The ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff's RFC allowed him to “occasionally and
frequently lift, carry, push, and pull ten pounds, ”
“stand and walk two hours of an eight-hour day, ”
and “sit for six hours of an eight-hour workday.”
[Filing No. 14-2, at ECF p. 20, R. at 19.]
Court must uphold the ALJ's decision if substantial
evidence supports her findings. Terry v. Astrue, 580
F.3d 471, 475 (7th Cir. 2009). The ALJ is obliged to
consider all relevant medical evidence and cannot cherry-pick
facts that support a finding of nondisability while ignoring
evidence that points to a disability finding. Denton v.
Astrue, 596 F.3d 419, 425 (7th Cir. 2010). If
evidence contradicts the ALJ's conclusions, the ALJ must
confront that evidence and explain why it was rejected.
Moore v. Colvin, 743 F.3d 1118, 1123 (7th Cir.
2014). The ALJ, however, need not mention every piece of
evidence, so long as she builds a logical bridge from the
evidence to her conclusion. Pepper v. Colvin, 712
F.3d 351, 362 (7th Cir. 2013).
contends that the ALJ failed to properly consider and analyze
whether Plaintiff's impairments medically equaled the
relevant listings. The Commissioner argues that the ALJ did
not err because demonstrating equivalence is Plaintiff's
burden and Plaintiff did not cite sources that show medical
equivalence. However, the claimant's burden is merely to
produce evidence in support of the claim, not to prove
equivalence. SeeEichstadt v. Astrue, 534
F.3d 663, 668 (7th Cir. 2008). ...