United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division
DAKOTA C. REYNOLDS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S BRIEF IN SUPPORT OF REQUEST
FOR JUDICIAL REVIEW
Baker United States Magistrate Judge
Dakota C. Reynolds appeals the Commissioner's denial of
her application for Social Security benefits. She asserts
that the ALJ erred at step 2 of the sequential analysis in
failing to analyze her fibromyalgia. The Court agrees and
therefore grants Reynolds' request for a remand under
sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for further
also argues the ALJ erred in failing to follow the special
technique in assessing her mental impairments and erred in
determining her residual functional capacity. The ALJ did not
apply the special technique when evaluating Reynolds'
claim under the adult disability standards, so he should do
so on remand. Once he considers Reynolds' fibromyalgia
and reassesses her mental limitations, he will need to
reconsider her residual functional capacity.
filed an application for supplemental security income on July
9, 2013, alleging disability beginning on January 1, 2010,
due to several conditions including scoliosis, ADHD, anxiety
disorder, bipolar disorder, and depression. [Filing No.
11-6 at ECF p. 15.] Reynolds was under the age of 18
when the application was filed and reached that age before
the date of the decision on her application. Thus, the issues
before the ALJ were whether she was disabled under the Social
Security Act for the period before age 18 and whether she is
disabled under the Act for the period beginning at age 18.
For purposes of this appeal, however, Reynolds asserts error
only with respect to the adult disability evaluation, and the
Court does the same.
one, the ALJ found that Reynolds has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the application date.
[Filing No. 11-2 at ECF p. 25.] At step two, he
identified her severe impairments as degenerative disc
disease of the lumbar spine, bipolar disorder, and anxiety.
[Id. at ECF p. 26.] At step three, the ALJ decided
that Reynolds does not have any impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or equals a listing. [Id. at
ECF p. 32.]
the ALJ assessed Reynolds' residual functional capacity,
finding her capable of performing a restricted range of
sedentary work. Among other restrictions, he limited her to
lifting and carrying 10 pounds occasionally and 5 pounds
frequently, standing and walking no more than 2 hours in and
8 hour workday, and sitting no more than 6 hours of an 8 hour
workday, with a sit/stand option every 30 minutes. The ALJ
also restricted Reynolds to “simple, routine, 1-2 step
job tasks with little change in the work routine from day to
day and only occasional superficial contact or interaction
with coworkers and supervisors and avoidance of interaction
with the general public.” [Filing No. 11-2 at ECF
p. 33.] Reynolds had no past relevant work, so the ALJ
proceeded to step five where he found, based on her age,
education, work experience, and residual functional capacity,
she was able to perform work that exists in significant
numbers in the national economy. [Id. at ECF pp.
35-36.] He therefore decided that she was not disabled under
the Social Security Act. [Id. at ECF p. 36.] The
Appeals Council denied review, and this appeal followed.
Standard of Review
Court must affirm the ALJ's decision if it is supported
by substantial evidence and applies the correct legal
standard. See Summers v. Berryhill, 864 F.3d 523,
526 (7th Cir. 2017). An ALJ may not ignore an entire line of
evidence that is contrary to his findings. Rather, he must
articulate at some minimal level his analysis of the evidence
to permit an informed review. Zurawski v. Halter,
245 F.3d 881, 888 (7th Cir. 2001).
contends that the ALJ erred in failing to properly analyze
her fibromyalgia. She is correct: the ALJ wholly failed to
address the evidence of Reynolds' fibromyalgia. The
Commissioner argues that the evidence does not support a
finding that Reynolds had “severe”
fibromyalgia. But in doing so, the Commissioner relies
on evidence not relied on by the ALJ and fashions her own
analysis of the evidence. This violates the Chenery
doctrine. See, e.g., Parker v. Astrue, 597
F.3d 920, 922 (7th Cir. 2010) (emphasizing that the
Commissioner violates the Chenery doctrine when she
defends the ALJ's decision on grounds that the ALJ has
not embraced) (citing SEC v. Chenery Corp., 318 U.S.
80, 87-88 (1943)). The ALJ wholly failed to acknowledge the
evidence of Reynolds' fibromyalgia. Thus, the
Commissioner's observations about the evidence will not
be considered as a basis to affirm the ALJ's
evidence of Reynolds' fibromyalgia includes the
following: During a December 2013 consultative exam with Mark
Willage, M.D., Reynolds reported she has a “chronic
ache all over” and at times the pain is
“unbearable.” [Filing No. 11-9 at ECF p.
53]. On examining Reynolds' upper and lower
extremities, Dr. Willage noted “[t]en of possible
tender points.” [Id. at ECF p. 47]. His
diagnoses included fibromyalgia and possible chronic fatigue
syndrome and he noted that these conditions “cause
[Reynolds] significant impairment.” [Id. at
ECF p. 53]. He also noted that Reynolds reported she had been
previously diagnosed with fibromyalgia and likely chronic
fatigue syndrome within the last two months.
February 2014, Reynolds consulted with Konrad R. Kijewski,
M.D., for pain management on referral from her treating
physician. She reported pain in her head, neck, bilateral
shoulders, upper back, mid back, and low back. [Filing
No. 11-11 at ECF p. 64]. She stated that the pain was
aching and constant, worsened with physical activity, and has
increased since its inception. [Id.] On exam, Dr.
Kijewski noted Reynolds had moderate tenderness in her neck,
mild tenderness in her thoracic spine area, moderate to
severe pain in her lumbar spine area, tenderness in her
paraspinal muscles and sacroiliac joints, and multiple
fibromyalgia points. [Filing No. 11-11 at ECF p.
66]. He assessed myalgia/myositis NOS, fibromyalgia, and
anxiety, and prescribed Lyrica, which is used to treat
fibromyalgia. [Id.] At treatment visits in
subsequent months, Reynolds received a series of cervical and
lumbar trigger point ...