United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Clarissa Ann Sulok appeals the denial of her claim for Social
Security Disability Insurance Benefits. For the following
reasons, the Court remands this matter to the Commissioner
for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Sulok filed her initial application for benefits on October
15, 2013, alleging disability beginning October 13 of that
same year. Her application was denied initially, on
reconsideration, and following an administrative hearing in
February 2016 at which she was represented by counsel. At
that hearing, the ALJ heard testimony from Ms. Sulok and
vocational expert Carrie Anderson. The ALJ found that Ms.
Sulok had some severe impairments but could still perform
certain jobs available in the national and regional economy,
and she was therefore not disabled within the meaning of the
Act. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(g). The Appeals Council
denied review of the ALJ decision, making the ALJ's
decision the final determination of the Commissioner.
the Appeals Council denied review, the Court evaluates the
ALJ's decision as the final word of the Commissioner of
Social Security. Schomas v. Colvin, 732 F.3d 702,
707 (7th Cir. 2013). The Court will affirm the
Commissioner's denial of disability benefits if it is
supported by substantial evidence. Craft v. Astrue,
539 F.3d 668, 673 (7th Cir. 2008). Substantial evidence
consists of “such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). It
must be “more than a scintilla but may be less than a
preponderance.” Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d
836, 841 (7th Cir. 2007). Thus, even if “reasonable
minds could differ” about the disability status of the
claimant, the Court will affirm the Commissioner's
decision as long as it is adequately supported. Elder v.
Astrue, 529 F.3d 408, 413 (7th Cir. 2008).
substantial-evidence determination, the Court does not
reweigh evidence, resolve conflicts, decide questions of
credibility or substitute the Court's own judgment for
that of the Commissioner. Lopez v. Barnhart, 336
F.3d 535, 539 (7th Cir. 2003). The Court does, however,
critically review the record to ensure that the ALJ's
decision is supported by the evidence and contains an
adequate discussion of the issues. Id. The ALJ must
evaluate both the evidence favoring the claimant as well as
the evidence favoring the claim's rejection; he may not
ignore an entire line of evidence that is contrary to his
findings. Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d 881, 887 (7th
Cir. 2001). The ALJ must also “articulate at some
minimal level his analysis of the evidence” to permit
informed review. Id. Ultimately, while the ALJ is
not required to address every piece of evidence or testimony
presented, he must provide a “logical bridge”
between the evidence and his conclusions. Terry v.
Astrue, 580 F.3d 471, 475 (7th Cir. 2009).
benefits are available only to individuals who are disabled
under the terms of the Social Security Act. Estok v.
Apfel, 152 F.3d 636, 638 (7th Cir. 1998). A claimant is
disabled if he or she is unable “to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The Social
Security regulations contain a five-step test to ascertain
whether the claimant has established a disability. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4). These steps require the Court to
1. Whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial
2. Whether the claimant has a medically severe impairment;
3. Whether the claimant's impairment meets or equals one
listed in the regulations;
4. Whether the claimant can still perform relevant past work;
5. Whether the claimant can perform other work in the