United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
OPINION AND ORDER
L. Miller, Jr. Judge
Moore seeks judicial review of a final decision denying his
application for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 423 and 1383
et seq. The court has jurisdiction over this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For the following
reasons, the court vacates the Commissioner's decision
and remands this case for further proceedings consistent with
Moore's application for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income was denied initially, on
reconsideration, and after an administrative hearing at which
he, Bernard Stevens, M.D., and a vocational expert testified.
Based on the record before him, the ALJ found that Mr. Moore
had severe impairments-morbid obesity, gout, and low back
pain with radiculopathy-but concluded that none of his
impairments met or medically equaled any of the impairments
listed in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1.
decided that Mr. Moore had the residual functional capacity
to perform sedentary work, as defined in 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1567(a), 416.967(a), with limitations,
including his past relevant work as a telephone solicitor,
and other work that existed in significant numbers in the
national economy, such as document preparer, order clerk, and
charge account clerk. The ALJ concluded that he wasn't
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act and
wasn't entitled to benefits.
the Appeals Council denied Mr. Moore's request for
review, the ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's
final decision. Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 107
(2000); Jones v. Astrue, 623 F.3d 1155, 1160 (7th
Cir. 2010). This appeal followed.
Standard of Review
issue before the court isn't whether Mr. Moore is
disabled, but whether substantial evidence supports the
ALJ's decision that he wasn't disabled.
Scott v. Astrue, 647 F.3d 734, 739 (7th
Cir. 2011); Nelms v. Astrue, 553 F.3d 1093, 1097
(7th Cir. 2009). Substantial evidence means “such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Jones v.
Astrue, 623 F.3d 1155, 1160 (7th Cir. 2010). The court
can't reweigh the evidence, make independent findings of
fact, decide credibility, or substitute its own judgment for
that of the Commissioner, Simila v. Astrue, 573 F.3d
503, 513 (7th Cir. 2009); Powers v. Apfel, 207 F.3d
431, 434-435 (7th Cir. 2000), but instead must conduct
“a critical review of the evidence, considering both
the evidence that supports, as well as the evidence that
detracts from, the Commissioner's decision.”
Briscoe v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 351 (7th Cir.
2005). While the ALJ isn't required “to address
every piece of evidence or testimony presented, he must
provide a ‘logical bridge' between the evidence and
the conclusions so that [the court] can assess the validity
of the agency's ultimate findings and afford the claimant
meaningful judicial review.” Jones v. Astrue,
623 F.3d 1155, 1160 (7th Cir. 2010). ALJs must
“sufficiently articulate their assessment of the
evidence to assure [the court] that they considered the
important evidence and to enable [the court] to trace the
path of their reasoning.” Scott v. Barnhart,
297 F.3d 589, 595 (7th Cir. 2002) (internal quotations
Moore presents four issues for review: (1) whether
substantial evidence supported the ALJ's determination
that he didn't have a medically determinable mental
impairment; (2) whether the ALJ's credibility
determination complied with relevant legal standards; (3)
whether the ALJ properly weighed the opinion evidence; and
(4) whether the ALJ's residual functional capacity
finding accounted for all of Mr. Moore's impairments. Mr.
Moore asks the court to either reverse the Commissioner's
decision and award benefits or remand the case for further
Moore first argues that the ALJ erred at step two of the
sequential evaluation of disability when he determined that
Mr. Moore didn't have a medically determinable mental
impairment even though the mental health specialists that
either examined Mr. Moore or reviewed his records found
mental impairments. At step two, Mr. Moore had to show that
he had “a medically determinable physical or mental
impairment.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1521, 416.921.
The threshold showing of a severe or non-severe impairment
can't be established only by a claimant's
“statement of symptoms, a diagnosis, or a medical
opinion to establish the existence of an impairment, ”
but must be shown “by medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory diagnostic techniques.” Id.
psychologist Dr. Roger Parks conducted a mental status
examination at which Mr. Moore exhibited concentration
problems, difficulty with serial sevens, and was assessed a
GAF score of 50, which suggests serious symptoms or a
“serious impairment in social, occupational, or school
functioning.” Am. Psychiatric Ass'n, Diagnostic
& Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders 34 (4th ed.
2000). Based on these findings, Dr. Parks diagnosed Mr. Moore
with major depressive disorder. The state agency consultants, Dr.
Stacia Hill, Ph.D. and J. Sands, M.D., also found that Mr.
Moore had a mental impairment: non-severe affective disorder.
Parks's report supports a finding of a mental impairment;
he is a specialist, diagnosed Mr. Moore with major depressive
disorder based on a mental status examination, and the ALJ
didn't find that Dr. Parks's mental status
examination lacked medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory diagnostic techniques. Nonetheless, the ALJ found
that “the records don't support a finding of a
mental impairment.” [Doc. No. 15-2 at 24]. This
conclusory finding doesn't provide this court with a
logical bridge between his conclusion and the evidence in the
record that would allow the court to properly review his
finding. See Jones v. Astrue, 623 F.3d 1155, 1160
(7th Cir. 2010).
also pointed to brief mental health assessments made by
physicians during treatment appointments, for example, a
remark that Mr. Moore had appropriate mood and affect and was
cooperative during a follow-up appointment for gout treatment
to support his finding of no mental impairment.But if the ALJ
sought to weigh these physicians' opinions over those of
Dr. Parks, he could only do so after properly weighing Dr.
Parks's opinion by considering the required regulatory
factors. Se ...