United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
LESLEE E. LEASON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ORDER ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
RECOMMENDATION AND REMAND
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE
Leslee E. Leason (“Leason”), appeals the
Administrative Law Judge's decision denying his
application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security
Act (“the Act”). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C § 636,
the Court referred the matter to the Magistrate Judge (Filing
No. 18), who submitted his Report and Recommendation on
February 12, 2018, recommending that the decision of the
Commissioner be reversed and remanded for further
consideration (Filing No. 19 at 12). The Commissioner timely
filed an Objection to the Magistrate Judge's Report and
Recommendation (Filing No. 20). For the reasons set forth
below, the Court OVERRULES two of the
Commissioner's Objections, ADOPTS the
Report and Recommendation in part, and
REMANDS the decision of the Commissioner for
of the procedural and factual background is unnecessary as
the parties and the Magistrate Judge have sufficiently
detailed the background in the briefs and the Report and
Recommendation. The Court mentions only the essential facts
in this entry.
was born in July 1978 and was 34 years old at the time he
filed for disability in January 2013. (Filing No. 13-2 at
27.) Leason has a GED, Id.at 43, but has never
worked fulltime. Id.at 40, 43. He worked
periodically between 1995 and 2008, and for a brief period
again in 2014. (Filing No. 13-5 at 11-20.) He has not held
employment since. He alleges disability based on seizures,
headaches and mental impairments.
September 2010, Leason established care with Open Door Health
Center (“Open Door”). From that time until his
official diagnosis of epilepsy by neurologist Dr. Ryan
Johnston, Leason experienced ongoing seizure
symptoms. (SeeFiling No. 15 at 7-8.) After several
intervening visits to Open Door, Leason visited a neurologist
in October 2012, which resulted in diagnoses of epilepsy,
migraines, and cognitive impairment. Id. On later
visits to Open Door, Leason met repeatedly with psychologist
Mary Jo Roseberry. Dr. Roseberry notes that Leason
“seems to have some strange ideas about what is
happening to him” and that his judgment and insight
were “minimal” (Filing No. 15 at 9). On a memory
test, Leason struggled. Leason's activities of daily
living and his ability to work have been affected by his
various physical and mental health conditions.
January 20, 2009, Leason filed a Title II application for
disability insurance benefits. (Filing No. 13-2 at 13.) On
January 23, 2009, Leason filed an application for
supplemental security income. Both applications were
initially denied on April 14, 2009, and affirmed by the
Appeals Council on December 10, 2012. Id.
January 4, 2013, Leason filed an application for supplemental
security income, alleging a disability onset beginning
November 21, 2008. Psychologist Glen Davidson, Jr., Ph.D.,
evaluated Leason on January 29, 2013, at the request of the
Disability Determination Bureau. Dr. Davidson wrote that
Leason seemed capable of understanding what was asked of him
but was viewed as being uncooperative. There were concerns
that he was high or intoxicated and Dr. Davidson had concerns
about reliability, validity, exaggeration, and malingering.
claim was initially denied on May 15, 2013, and again upon
reconsideration on December 10, 2013. Id.
Administrative Law Judge Dennis Lyndell Pickett (the
“ALJ”) held a video hearing on May 19, 2015. The
ALJ denied Leason's application on June 19, 2015, and the
Appeals Council denied his request for review on November 8,
2016 (Filing No. 13-2 at 2).
the Court reviews the Commissioner's decision, the
ALJ's findings of fact are conclusive and must be upheld
by this Court “so long as substantial evidence supports
them and no error of law occurred.” Dixon v.
Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1176 (7th Cir. 2001).
“Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. The Court may not reweigh the
evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ.
Overman v. Astrue, 546 F.3d 456, 462 (7th Cir.
2008). The ALJ “need not evaluate in writing every
piece of testimony and evidence submitted.” Carlson
v. Shalala, 999 F.2d 180, 181 (7th Cir. 1993). However,
the “ALJ's decision must be based upon
consideration of all the relevant evidence.” Herron
v. Shalala, 19 F.3d 329, 333 (7th Cir. 1994). To be
affirmed, the ALJ must articulate his analysis of the
evidence in his decision, and while he “is not required
to address every piece of evidence or testimony, ” he
must “provide some glimpse into [his] reasoning . . .
[and] build an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence
to [his] conclusion.” Dixon, 270 F.3d at 1176.
The Court “must be able to trace the ALJ's path of
reasoning” from the evidence to his conclusion.
Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 874 (7th Cir.
party raises specific objections to elements of a magistrate
judge's report and recommendation, the district court
reviews those elements de novo, determining for
itself whether the Commissioner's decision as to those
issues is supported by substantial evidence or was the result
of an error of law. See Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 72(b). The
district court “makes the ultimate decision to adopt,
reject, or modify the report and recommendation, and it need
not accept any portion as binding; the court may, however,
defer to those conclusions . . . to which timely objections
have not been raised by a party.” Sweet v.
Colvin, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 141893, at *3 (S.D. Ind.
Sept. 30, 2013) (citing Schur v. L.A. Weight Loss Ctrs.,
Inc., 577 F.3d 752, 759-61 (7th Cir. 2009)).
appeal of the ALJ's decision, Leason advanced five
primary arguments: (1) the ALJ improperly determined Leason
did not meet listing 12.05(C); (2) the ALJ neglected to
include Leason's limitations of concentration,
persistence, and pace in hypothetical questions posed to the
vocational expert (“VE”); (3) the ALJ improperly
evaluated a consultative opinion regarding Leason's
abilities to manipulate with his hands; (4) the ALJ
selectively reviewed evidence from Vocational Rehabilitation
(“VR”); and (5) the ALJ did not properly include
information from an accepted third-party statement in his
hypothetical question posed to the VE. (SeeFiling No. 15 at
2.) The Magistrate Judge concluded that remand was warranted
in Leason's favor on all of his contentions except for
Leason's argument that the ALJ selectively reviewed
evidence from VR. (Filing No. 19 at 10.) The Commissioner
objected to all of the ALJ's findings except for the