United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
KATHLEEN R. HERROLD, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
MAGISTRATE JUDGE PAUL R. CHERRY UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by
Plaintiff Kathleen R. Herrold on February 13, 2017, and on an
Opening Brief [DE 18], filed by Plaintiff on September 11,
2017. Plaintiff requests that the January 29, 2016 decision
of the Administrative Law Judge denying her claim for
disability insurance benefits be reversed and remanded for
further proceedings or for an award of benefits. On November
20, 2017, the Commissioner filed a response. Plaintiff filed
a reply brief on December 6, 2017. For the following reasons,
the Court grants Plaintiff's request for remand for
further administrative proceedings.
October 8, 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for
disability insurance benefits, alleging disability beginning
on January 28, 2010. Plaintiff's application was denied
initially and upon reconsideration. A hearing was held on May
10, 2012, before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
Jonathan Stanley, and on May 17, 2012, ALJ Stanley issued a
decision denying the application. Plaintiff sought review of
the ALJ's decision, but the Appeals Council denied the
request. Plaintiff sought judicial review, and, on March 17,
2015, Magistrate Judge John E. Martin, presiding by consent
of the parties, granted Plaintiff's request to remand the
matter to the agency for further proceedings. On remand, the
Appeals Council remanded the matter to an ALJ for a hearing
and new decision. ALJ Romona Scales held a hearing on
December 1, 2015. She issued a written decision on February
3, 2016, denying benefits and making the following findings:
1. The claimant last met the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act on June 30, 2012.
2. The claimant did not engage in substantial gainful
activity during the period from her alleged onset date of
January 28, 2010 through her date last insured of June 30,
3. Through the date last insured, the claimant had the
following severe impairments: arachnoid cyst; rheumatoid
arthritis; degenerative disc disease of the cervical and
lumbar spine; fibromyalgia; hypertension; obesity; depressive
disorder; and anxiety disorder.
4. Through the date last insured, the claimant did not have
an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that, through the date last insured, the
claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform
light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b), as the claimant
could lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds
frequently; and sit, stand or walk for 6 hours each in an
8-hour workday. The claimant could never climb ladders, ropes
or scaffolds but could occasionally climb ramps and stairs;
and occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl.
The claimant could frequently handle, finger, and reach
bilaterally. The claimant had to avoid exposure to hazards,
including unprotected heights; moving machinery; and
slippery, uneven surfaces. The claimant could have occasional
exposure to extreme cold. The claimant could understand,
remember, and carry[ ]out unskilled tasks or instructions;
maintain adequate attention and concentration for such tasks
or ongoing [sic]; and manage the changes in a
routine, unskilled work setting. The claimant required no
fast-paced production work or quotas. The claimant could have
had ongoing, superficial interaction with the general public.
6. Through the date last insured, the claimant was unable to
perform any past relevant work.
7. The claimant was born [in 1963] and was 48 years old,
which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the
date last insured.
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English.
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the
determination of disability because using the
Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding
that the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or
not the claimant has transferable job skills.
10. Through the date last insured, considering the
claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual
functional capacity, there were jobs that existed in
significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant
could have performed.
11. The claimant was not under a disability, as defined in
the Social Security Act, at any time from January 28, 2010,
the alleged onset date, through June 30, 2012, the date last
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review,
leaving the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981.
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 ...