United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
ANGELA M. FRYE, Plaintiff
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant
OPINION AND ORDER
L. MILLER, JR. JUDGE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
Frye seeks judicial review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying her applications for
Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security
Income under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
423 and 1381 et seq. The court has jurisdiction over
this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and
1383(c)(3). The court reverses the Commissioner's
decision and remands the case for further proceedings.
Frye filed her original applications in 2012, alleging
disability as of Nov 1, 2009. When those applications were
denied, she reapplied alleging disability as of January 2012
due to multiple mental and physical impairments. Ms. Frye was
51 when she refiled, had a high school education, and was
insured for Disability Insurance Benefits through June 30,
2014. Her renewed applications were denied initially, on
reconsideration, and after an administrative hearing in March
2016, during which Ms. Frye amended the alleged onset date to
November 15, 2015, expressly waived her claim to Disability
Insurance Benefits (because the alleged onset of disability
occurred after her date last insured), and pursued only her
Supplemental Security Income claim.
hearing, the ALJ heard testimony from Ms. Frye and a
vocational expert, Sharon Ringenberg. Based on the evidence
presented, he found that:
• Ms. Frye had severe impairments: bipolar disorder,
panic disorder with agoraphobia, anxiety disorder,
fibromyalgia, diabetes mellitus II, lumbar disc herniation at
the L5-S1 level, degenerative disc changes at ¶ 4-5
without focal herniation or headaches; and hypertension (20
CFR §§ 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
• Her impairments, alone and in combination, didn't
meet or equal the severity of any of the impairments listed
in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P., Appendix 1, specifically
Listings 12.04 (Affective Discorders) and 12.06 (Anxiety
• Ms. Frye had the residual functional capacity to
perform light work with limitations.
• Ms. Frye couldn't perform her past work as a
retail worker (DOT 201.462-014) and school bus driver (DOT
913.463-010), but could perform other work that existed in
significant numbers in the national economy, including work
as a routing clerk (DOT 222.587-038 - 150 jobs statewide/22,
000 nationally),  ticket taker (DOT 344.667-010 - 150 jobs
statewide/10, 000 nationally), and mail sorter (DOT
209.687-026 - 1000 jobs statewide/50, 000 nationally).
concluded that Ms. Frye wasn't disabled within the
meaning of the Social Security Act, and wasn't entitled
to Disability Insurance Benefits or Supplemental Security
Income. When the Appeals Council denied Ms. Frye's
request for review, the ALJ's decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. Jones v.
Astrue, 623 F.3d 1155, 1160 (7th Cir. 2010). This appeal
Frye contends that the ALJ erred as a matter of law in
denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits,
and that his findings regarding her residual functional
capacity and ability to perform other work at steps 4 and 5
of the sequential evaluation aren't supported by
substantial evidence. More specifically, she alleges that:
(1) The ALJ failed to consider the results of a December 2015
MRI showing nerve root compression in the lower lumbar spine
(AR 656-658) or Listing 1.04 (disorders of the spine) when he
concluded that “the radiographic evidence”
didn't support her subjective complaints regarding the
severity and limiting effects of her physical impairments,
and found that she retained the functional capacity to
perform a limited range of light work.
(2) The ALJ relied on, and gave too much weight to, findings
and medical opinions that predated the alleged onset of
disability (November 1, 2015) and the December 2015 MRI -
specifically an October 2015 RFC assessment by Dr. D.
Whitley, a state agency consulting physician (AR 210-213).
(3) The ALJ found that Ms. Frye had moderate limitations in
concentration, persistence, and pace, but didn't
adequately identify what those limitations were in his
hypothetical to the vocational expert. Citing Varga v.
Colvin, 794 F.3d 809, 814-15 (7th Cir. 2015) (holding
that a hypothetical question limiting a person to simple,
repetitive work that was “free of fast paced production
requirements” didn't provide the ...