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Seabolt v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

July 23, 2018

WILLIAM T. SEABOLT, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Michael G. Gotsch, Sr. United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff William Seabolt (“Seabolt”) filed his complaint in this Court seeking reversal of the Social Security Commissioner's final decision to deny his application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. Alternatively, Seabolt seeks remand for further consideration of his application. This Court may enter a ruling in this matter based on the parties' consent pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For the reasons discussed below, this Court REMANDS this case to the Social Security Administration for further proceedings.

         I. Procedure

         On August 2, 2011, in Kentucky, Seabolt protectively filed applications for DIB and SSI pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423 alleging disability beginning November 30, 2009.[1]

         On February 5, 2013, a video hearing was held before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). On May 22, 2013, the ALJ (“2013 ALJ”) issued her decision denying Seabolt's application for DIB and SSI having found that he was not disabled as defined by the Social Security Act. Seabolt did not appeal this decision.

         On April 30, 2014, Seabolt again filed applications for a period of disability to receive DIB and SSI, alleging disability beginning May 23, 2013. Seabolt appeared and testified at a hearing held on April 12, 2016, in Middlesboro, Kentucky before a different ALJ. On September 9, 2016, the second ALJ (“the ALJ”) issued a decision again denying Seabolt's application for DIB and SSI having found that there was no significant change in his condition, thus he was not disabled as defined by the Social Security Act. On April 12, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Seabolt's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Subsequently, Seabolt moved to the Northern District of Indiana. On June 16, 2017, Seabolt filed a complaint in this Court seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). On November 6, 2017, Seabolt filed his opening brief. Thereafter, on December 15, 2017, the Commissioner filed a responsive memorandum asking the Court to affirm the decision denying Seabolt's benefits. Seabolt filed his reply brief on January 22, 2018.

         Through the instant complaint, Seabolt seeks reversal or remand of the ALJ's decision, arguing that he inappropriately applied res judicata when he used the Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”) determination made by the previous ALJ in 2013 (“the 2013 RFC”) to reach his 2016 decision about whether Seabolt was disabled rather than crafting his own RFC by reviewing the facts and issues de novo. Seabolt also contends that the ALJ erred in step five when he failed to inform the vocational expert (“VE”) of all the limitations included in the RFC he adopted from the 2013 ALJ's decision. Therefore, Seabolt contends the VE was unaware of all his limitations such that the VE's conclusion that Seabolt could perform other jobs could not be supported by substantial evidence.

         The Commissioner opposes all of Seabolt's arguments.

         II. Analysis

         A. Standard of Review

         On judicial review, the Social Security Act requires that the Court accept the Commissioner's factual findings as conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 869 (7th Cir. 2000). Minimally, an ALJ must articulate his analysis of the evidence in order to allow the reviewing court to trace the path of his reasoning and to be assured that the ALJ considered the important evidence. Scott v. Barnhart, 297 F.3d 589, 595 (7th Cir. 2005). However, the ALJ need not specifically address every piece of evidence in the record, but must present a “logical bridge” from the evidence to his conclusions. O'Connor-Spinner v. Astrue, 627 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2010). The ALJ must provide a glimpse into the reasoning behind his analysis and the decision to deny benefits. Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d 881, 889 (7th Cir. 2001).

         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. Briscoe v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 351 (7th Cir. 2005). Substantial evidence must be “more than scintilla but may be less than a preponderance.” Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d 836, 841 (7th Cir. 2007). Thus, substantial evidence is simply “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Kepple v. Massanari, 268 F.3d 513, 516 (7th Cir. 2001).

         A court reviews the entire administrative record but does not reconsider facts, re-weigh the evidence, resolve conflicts in evidence, decide questions of credibility or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. Boiles v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 421, 425 (7th Cir. 2005). Thus, the question upon judicial review 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). The ALJ must build a logical bridge from the evidence to his conclusion ...


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