United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Collins United States Magistrate Judge
Pamela Maggart appeals to the district court from a final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
("Commissioner") denying her application under the
Social Security Act (the "Act") for Supplemental
Security Income ("SSI"). (DE 1). For the following
reasons, the Commissioner's decision will be REVERSED,
and the case will be REMANDED for further proceedings in
accordance with this Opinion and Order.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
applied for SSI in September 2013, alleging disability as of
July 12, 2013. (DE 12 Administrative Record ("AR")
170-75). The Commissioner denied Maggart's application
initially and upon reconsideration. (AR 111-14, 120-22). A
hearing was held on August 24, 2015, at which Maggart, who
was represented by an attorney, and Marie Kieffer, a
vocational expert (the "VE"), appeared. (AR 27-80).
On September 29, 2015, the ALJ rendered an unfavorable
decision to Maggart, concluding that she was not disabled
because she could perform a significant number of unskilled,
light work jobs in the economy despite the limitations caused
by her impairments. (AR 13-23). The Appeals Council denied
Maggart's request for review (AR 1-3), at which point the
ALJ's decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481.
filed a complaint with this Court on February 10, 2017,
seeking relief from the Commissioner's decision. (DEI).
Maggart asserts that the ALJ erred by: (1) failing to account
for her limitations in maintaining concentration,
persistence, or pace when assessing her mental residual
functional capacity ("RFC"); (2) rejecting the
opinion of Dan L. Boen, Ph.D., an examining psychologist; and
(3) discounting the credibility of her symptom testimony. (DE
20 at 7-17).
time of the ALJ's decision, Maggart was 49 years old (AR
23, 170); had completed the ninth grade, which included
special education classes (AR 194); and had past work
experience as a dishwasher and a laundry worker (AR 195,
236). Maggart alleges disability due to a generalized anxiety
disorder, borderline intellectual functioning,
hyperthyroidism, pancreatitis, arthritis of the knees and
hips, insomnia, a chronic cough, shoulder pain, and low back
pain. (AR 193, 303).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
405(g) of the Act grants this Court "the power to enter,
upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment
affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding
the cause for a rehearing." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
see 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3). The Court's
task is limited to determining whether the ALJ's factual
findings are supported by substantial evidence, which means
"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) (citation
omitted). The decision will be reversed only if it is not
supported by substantial evidence or if the ALJ applied an
erroneous legal standard. Clifford v. Apfel, 227
F.3d 863, 869 (7th Cir. 2000).
determine if substantial evidence exists, the Court reviews
the entire administrative record but does not re-weigh the
evidence, resolve conflicts, decide questions of credibility,
or substitute its judgment for the Commissioner's.
Id. Rather, if the findings of the Commissioner are
supported by substantial evidence, they are conclusive.
Id. Nonetheless, "substantial evidence"
review should not be a simple rubber-stamp of the
Commissioner's decision. Id.
the Act, a plaintiff is entitled to SSI if she "is
unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by
reason of any medically determinable physical or mental
impairment which . . . has lasted or can be expected to last
for a continuous period of not less than twelve months."
42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). A physical or mental
impairment is "an impairment that results from
anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities
which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory diagnostic techniques." 42 U.S.C. §
determining whether Maggart is disabled as defined by the
Act, the ALJ conducted the familiar five-step analytical
process, which required her to assess the following issues in
sequence: (1) whether the claimant is currently unemployed;
(2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment; (3) whether
the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments
meets or equals one of the impairments listed by the
Commissioner, see 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpt. P,
App'x 1; (4) whether the claimant is unable to perform
her past work; and (5) whether the claimant is incapable of
performing work in the national economy. See Dixon v.
Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1176 (7th Cir. 2001); 20
C.F.R. § 416.920. An affirmative answer leads either to
the next step or, on steps three and five, to a finding that
the claimant is disabled. Zurawski v. Halter, 245
F.3d 881, 886 (7th Cir. 2001). A negative answer at any point
other than step three stops the inquiry and leads to a
finding that the claimant is not disabled. Id. The
burden of proof lies with the claimant at every step except
the fifth, where it shifts to the Commissioner. Id.
The ALJ ...