United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON PLAINTIFF'S BRIEF IN
SUPPORT OF APPEAL
Baker United States Magistrate Judge.
Todd A. appeals the Social Security Administration's
denial of his application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits. The Administrative Law Judge
found that Plaintiff has severe impairments of anxiety,
depression, and obesity. Plaintiff argues that (1) the ALJ
failed to build a logical bridge between Plaintiff's
father's testimony and her conclusion, and (2) the ALJ
failed to account for Plaintiff's mild limitations in
concentration, persistence, or pace in the residual
functional capacity assessment and in the hypothetical
questions posed to the vocational expert. As discussed below,
Plaintiff's request for remand [Filing No. 13] should be
granted because the ALJ failed to adequately assess
Plaintiff's mild limitations in concentration,
persistence, or pace arising from his memory problems.
the SSA's five-step sequential evaluation process, the
ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled.
See20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a) (explaining the
five-step evaluation process). At step one, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since the alleged onset date. At step two,
the ALJ determined that Plaintiff is severely impaired with
anxiety, depression, and obesity. At step three, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff is not presumptively disabled
because his impairments do not meet or medically equal the
severity of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404,
subpt. P, app. 1.
moving on to step four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had
the residual functional capacity to perform medium work,
subject to additional limitations. Specifically, the ALJ
found Plaintiff was limited to simple, routine tasks; simple,
work-related decisions; never interacting with the general
public; and having occasional interaction with supervisors
and co-workers. In making this finding, the ALJ considered
medical, opinion, and other evidence. Part of the ALJ's
consideration included the testimony and third-party
statement of Plaintiff's father, Phillip, which the ALJ
assigned probative weight. At step four, the ALJ relied on
Plaintiff's RFC and a vocational expert's testimony
to determine that Plaintiff would be unable to perform any
past relevant work. However, at step five, the ALJ determined
that he can perform jobs available in significant numbers in
the national economy despite Plaintiff's limitations.
makes two arguments in support of his appeal. Plaintiff first
argues that the ALJ did not build a logical bridge between
the evidence and her conclusion because she did not
adequately explain the extent to which she credited
Phillip's testimony. The Deputy Commissioner responds by
arguing that the ALJ met her burden of articulating “at
some minimum level, [her] analysis of the evidence to allow
the appellate court to trace the path of [her]
reasoning.” [Filing No. 22, at ECF p. 13 (quoting
Diaz v. Chater, 55 F.3d 300, 306 n.2 (7th Cir.
1995).] To the extent the record lacks additional evidence,
the Deputy Commissioner argues Plaintiff has the burden of
providing medical evidence demonstrating his disability-a
burden that she argues Plaintiff failed to meet.
Plaintiff's second argument is that the ALJ failed to
include Plaintiff's mild limitations in concentration,
persistence, or pace in her RFC assessment and in the
hypothetical questions she posed to the vocational expert. In
response, the Deputy Commissioner argues that the ALJ
reasonably accounted for those limitations.
review, the Court exercises deference and determines whether
“substantial evidence” supports the ALJ's
decision. Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d 836, 841 (7th
Cir. 2007) (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401 (1979)). Substantial evidence is “such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Id.The
Court does not “reweigh evidence or substitute [its
own] judgment for that of the ALJ.” Murphy v.
Colvin, 759 F.3d 811, 815 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Pepper v. Colvin, 712 F.3d 351, 362 (7th Cir.
2013)). However, the Court will remand the ALJ's decision
if the reasons given by the ALJ do not “build an
accurate and logical bridge” between the evidence and
the result. Lanigan v. Berryhill, 865 F.3d 558, 563
(7th Cir. 2017).
argues the ALJ did not build a logical bridge between the
evidence and her conclusion because she did not adequately
explain which parts of Phillip's testimony she credited.
Plaintiff contends that by failing to build a logical bridge,
the ALJ robbed subsequent reviewers the chance to follow her
reasoning. In response, the Deputy Commissioner argues that
substantial evidence supports the ALJ's determination
because she met the standard of minimally articulating her
analysis of the evidence.
Security Ruling 06-03p discusses how ALJs consider opinion
evidence and “not acceptable medical sources.”
SSR 06-03p; see also20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(f)(2)
(tracking the language of SSR 06-03p and applicable to claims
filed on or before March 27, 2017). Opinions of individuals
who have not seen the claimant in their professional capacity
(such as spouses, parents, and friends) are included in SSR
06-03p's definition of this type of evidence.
Id.When articulating the consideration given to
these sources, the ALJ “generally should explain the
weight given to opinions from these ‘other
sources,' or otherwise ensure that the discussion of the
evidence in the determination or decision allows a claimant
or subsequent reviewer to follow the [ALJ's] reasoning,
when such opinions may have an effect on the outcome of the
case.” Id. When analyzing evidence, the ALJ is
“not required to address every piece of evidence . . .
nor repeat the factual analysis throughout each
section.” Bryant v. Berryhill, No.
1:17-CV-01850-JMS-TAB, 2018 WL 494640, at *7 (S.D. Ind. Jan.
22, 2018) (citing Rice v. Barnhart, 384 F.3d 363,
370 n.5 (7th Cir. 2004)). So long as the ALJ minimally
articulates her reasoning and develops a bridge between the
evidence and the outcome, the Court will affirm.
Rice, 384 F.3d at 371.
the ALJ did not provide specific quotations from
Phillip's testimony or third-party statement, she
minimally articulated her reasoning, allowing this Court to
follow it. The ALJ credited Phillip's testimony “as
it relates to the claimant's work . . . and the
limitations in his ability to interact with others and
concentrate.” [Filing No. 8-2, at ECF p. 25, R. at 24.]
However, the ALJ determined that the level of impairment
suggested by Phillip was not supported by evidence. Absent
objective medical evidence supporting that testimony, the ALJ
was free to determine that Plaintiff is not “incapable
of working a simple job with low social interactions.”
concern that the ALJ's findings are contradictory
regarding the weight given to Philip's testimony or
third-party statement is not substantiated by the ALJ's
decision when read as a whole. Discussing ...