United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
OPINION AND ORDER
R. CHERRY MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by
Plaintiff Daniel Anthony Brady on December 19, 2016, and a
Plaintiff's Brief in Support of Reversing the Decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security [DE 13], filed on June
13, 2017. Plaintiff requests that the September 19, 2015
decision of the Administrative Law Judge denying his claim
for supplemental security income be reversed and remanded for
further proceedings. On August 24, 2017, the Commissioner
filed a response, and Plaintiff filed a reply on October 13,
2017. For the following reasons, the Court grants
Plaintiff's request for remand.
filed an application for supplemental security income on June
27, 2013, after he turned eighteen years old, alleging
disability since birth in 1995 based on trisomy 20 mosaicism,
pulmonary stenosis, occult cleft palate, and severe
scoliosis. The claim was denied initially and on
reconsideration. On September 2, 2015, Administrative Law
Judge Laurie Wardell (“ALJ”) held a hearing. In
attendance at the hearing were Plaintiff, Plaintiff's
family, Plaintiff's attorney, and an impartial vocational
expert. On September 19, 2015, the ALJ issued a written
decision denying benefits, making the following findings:
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since June 27, 2013, the application date.
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
scoliosis, learning disability, and mild pulmonary valve
3. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
4. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 416.967(b) except the claimant can occasionally lift and
carry 20 pound[s] and frequently 10 pounds; sit for 6 hours
and stand for 6 hours; is able to occasionally be exposed to
extreme cold, extreme heat, wetness, humidity, fumes, odors
and pulmonary irritants; and is able to do simple routine
repetitive tasks not at a production rate pace. The claimant
is not able to do work that requires writing with a writing
instrument. The claimant should have no exposure to hazards.
The claimant is limited to occasional fingering and work in a
work environment that is not any louder than a moderate work
5. The claimant has no past relevant work.
6. The claimant was born [in 1995] and was 18 years old,
which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the
date the application was filed.
7. The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English.
8. Transferability of job skills is not an issue because the
claimant does not have past relevant work.
9. Considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that the claimant can perform.
10. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from June 27, 2013, the date the
application was filed.
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review,
leaving the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481.
Plaintiff filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) for review of the Agency's decision.
parties filed forms of consent to have this case assigned to
a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all further
proceedings and to order the entry of a final judgment in
this case. Therefore, this Court has jurisdiction to decide
this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and 42 U.S.C.
Social Security Act authorizes judicial review of the final
decision of the agency and indicates that the
Commissioner's factual findings must be accepted as
conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Thus, a court reviewing the findings of an ALJ
will reverse only if the findings are not supported by
substantial evidence or if the ALJ has applied an erroneous
legal standard. See Briscoe v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d
345, 351 (7th Cir. 2005). Substantial evidence consists of
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Schmidt v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 737, 744 (7th Cir.
2005) (quoting Gudgel v. Barnhart, 345 F.3d 467, 470
(7th Cir. 2003)).
reviews the entire administrative record but does not
reconsider facts, re-weigh the evidence, resolve conflicts in
evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ.
See Boiles v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 421, 425 (7th Cir.
2005); Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 869 (7th
Cir. 2000); Butera v. Apfel, 173 F.3d 1049, 1055
(7th Cir. 1999). Thus, the question upon judicial review of
an ALJ's finding that a claimant is not disabled within
the meaning of the Social Security Act is not whether the
claimant is, in fact, disabled, but whether the ALJ
“uses the correct legal standards and the decision is
supported by substantial evidence.” Roddy v.
Astrue, 705 F.3d 631, 636 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing
O'Connor-Spinner v. Astrue, 627 F.3d 614, 618
(7th Cir. 2010); Prochaska v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d
731, 734-35 (7th Cir. 2006); Barnett v. Barnhart,
381 F.3d 664, 668 (7th Cir. 2004)). “[I]f the
Commissioner commits an error of law, ” the Court may
reverse the decision “without regard to the volume of
evidence in support of the factual findings.” White
v. Apfel, 167 F.3d 369, 373 (7th Cir. 1999) (citing
Binion v. Chater, 108 F.3d 780, 782 (7th Cir.
minimum, an ALJ must articulate her analysis of the evidence
in order to allow the reviewing court to trace the path of
her reasoning and to be assured that the ALJ considered the
important evidence. See Scott v. Barnhart, 297 F.3d
589, 595 (7th Cir. 2002); Diaz v. Chater, 55 F.3d
300, 307 (7th Cir. 1995); Green v. Shalala, 51 F.3d
96, 101 (7th Cir. 1995). An ALJ must “‘build an
accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to [the]
conclusion' so that [a reviewing court] may assess the
validity of the agency's final decision and afford [a
claimant] meaningful review.” Giles v. Astrue,
483 F.3d 483, 487 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Scott,
297 F.3d at 595)); see also O'Connor-Spinner,
627 F.3d at 618 (“An ALJ need not specifically address
every piece of evidence, but must provide a ‘logical
bridge' between the evidence and [her]
conclusions.”); Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d
881, 889 (7th Cir. 2001) (“[T]he ALJ's analysis
must provide some glimpse into the reasoning behind [the]
decision to deny benefits.”).
eligible for disability benefits, a claimant must establish
that he suffers from a “disability” as defined by
the Social Security Act and regulations. The Act defines
“disability” as an inability to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment that can be
expected to result in death or that has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
twelve months. 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). To be found
disabled, the claimant's impairment must not only prevent
him from doing his previous work, but considering his age,
education, and work experience, it must also prevent him from
engaging in any other type of substantial gainful activity
that exists in significant numbers in the economy. 42 U.S.C.
§1382c(a)(3)(B); 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e)-(f).
claimant alleges a disability, Social Security regulations
provide a five-step inquiry to evaluate whether the claimant
is entitled to benefits. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). The
steps are: (1) Is the claimant engaged in substantial gainful
activity? If yes, the claimant is not disabled, and the claim
is denied; if no, the inquiry proceeds to step two; (2) Does
the claimant have an impairment or combination of impairments
that are severe? If no, the claimant is not disabled, and the
claim is denied; if yes, the inquiry proceeds to step three;
(3) Do(es) the impairment(s) meet or equal a listed
impairment in the appendix to the regulations? If yes, the
claimant is automatically considered disabled; if no, then
the inquiry proceeds to step four; (4) Can the claimant do
the claimant's past relevant work? If yes, the claimant
is not disabled, and the claim is denied; if no, then the
inquiry proceeds to step five; (5) Can the claimant perform
other work given the claimant's residual functional
capacity (RFC), age, education, and experience? If yes, then
the claimant is not disabled, and the claim is denied; if no,
the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4)(i)-(v); see also Scheck v. Barnhart,
357 F.3d 697, 699-700 (7th Cir. 2004).
steps four and five, the ALJ must consider an assessment of
the claimant's RFC. The RFC “is an administrative
assessment of what work-related activities an individual can
perform despite [his] limitations.” Dixon v.
Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1178 (7th Cir. 2001). The RFC
should be based on evidence in the record. Craft v.
Astrue, 539 F.3d 668, 676 (7th Cir. 2008) (citing 20
C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(3)). The claimant bears the burden
of proving steps one through four, whereas the burden at step
five is on the ALJ. Zurawski, 245 F.3d at 885-86;
see also Knight v. Chater, 55 F.3d 309, 313 (7th
seeks reversal and an award of benefits or, in the
alternative, remand for further proceedings, arguing that the
ALJ failed to properly analyze the Listings at step three,
that the RFC assessment was not supported by substantial
evidence, and that the credibility determination of
Plaintiff's and his parents' testimony was legally
insufficient. The Court considers each argument in turn.
Listing of Impairments
found that Plaintiff does not meet or equal a listing at step
three of the sequential analysis. On June 26, 2013,
Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. C. Kramer, authored a
letter to the Social Security Administration Office of
Disability Adjudication and Review. (AR 313). At the time of
the letter, Plaintiff was already eighteen years old. In the
letter, Dr. Kramer, who indicated he had been treating
Plaintiff since August 2001, identified Plaintiff's
diagnoses as velopharyngeal insufficiency, which required
multiple surgeries; a submucus cleft palate; pulmonary artery
stenosis; a learning disability; and a seizure disorder.
Id. Dr. Kramer wrote that, in March 2002, Plaintiff
was evaluated at the Genetic Clinic of Children's
Memorial Hospital and found to have trisomy 20 mosaicism on a
chromosomal analysis. Id. He explained that this
diagnosis unified all of Plaintiff's problems under one
diagnosis. Id. Dr. Kramer then opined: “The
diagnosis of Trisomy 20 mosaicism with all of Daniel's
concurrent problems would appear to medically meet listing
110.8B.” Id. The Court notes that there is no
Listing 110.8B, but Dr. Kramer likely intended to identify
Listing 110.08B for “catastrophic congenital disorders,
” discussed below. On August 25, 2015, Dr. Kramer
authored a second letter giving the same background
information and diagnoses but offering no opinion on whether
Plaintiff meets or equals a listing. (AR 610).
Listing of Impairments for the evaluation of impairments of
children under age 18 is found in Appendix 1, Part B.
See 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, Part B. The
introductory sentence to Part B provides: “Medical
criteria for the evaluation of impairments of children under
age 18 (where criteria in part A do not give appropriate
consideration to the particular disease process in
childhood).” Id. The listings in Part B are
“never” used to evaluate individuals who are age
eighteen or older. 20 C.F.R. § 416.925(b)(2)(I). Within
Part B, Listing 110.00 addresses “Congenital Disorders
That Affect Multiple Body Systems.” This section
evaluates two impairments: “non-mosaic Down syndrome
and catastrophic congenital disorders.” Id. at
Listing 110.06 addresses non-mosaic Down syndrome, which is
defined under the Listing as a genetic disorder involving
extra copies of chromosome 21 in all of the cells, identified
as either “chromosome 21 trisomy” or
“chromosome 21 translocation.” Id. at
§ 110.00B. There are no medical records showing that
Plaintiff has chromosome 21 trisomy or chromosome 21
translocation. Rather, Plaintiff was diagnosed with trisomy
20 mosaicism. (AR 281).
Listing 110.08, the listing identified by Dr. Kramer,