United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division
EVANS BARKER, JUDGE
Misty S. (“Misty”) appeals the final decision of
the Deputy Commissioner for Operations (“Deputy
Commissioner”) of the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) denying her June 9, 2014, application for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”). R. (Dkt.
13) at 11. The application was initially denied on September
12, 2014, R. at 74, and upon reconsideration on September 30,
2014. R. at 79. The administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) conducted a hearing on June 7, 2016, R.
at 28, resulting in a decision on August 31, 2016, that Misty
was not disabled and thus not entitled to receive DIB. R. at
8. The Appeals Council denied review on August 24, 2017, and
the Deputy Commissioner's decision became final. R. at 1.
On October 27, 2017, Misty timely filed this civil action
seeking judicial review of that the decision pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). Dkt. 1.
reasons below, the decision is reversed and the case remanded
for action consistent with this order.
followed the five-step sequential evaluation set forth by the
SSA, see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i) to (v),
in concluding that Misty was not disabled. Specifically, the
ALJ found as follows:
• At Step One, Misty had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since May 25, 2014, the alleged disability
onset date. R. at 13.
• At Step Two, she had the following severe impairments:
“history of left knee crush injury, degenerative joint
disease/bursitis of the left knee, status post fluid removal
surgery and obesity.” Id. (citation omitted).
• At Step Three, she did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the
severity of one of the listed impairments. R. at 14.
• After Step Three but before Step Four, Misty had the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) “to
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a). She
can sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday but must be
permitted to alternate to standing or walking for three to
five minutes after 30 to 45 minutes of sitting, and can stand
or walk for two hours in an eight-hour workday but must be
permitted to alternate to sitting for three to five minutes
after every 20 to 30 minutes of standing or walking. She can
occasionally operate foot controls with the left lower
extremity. She can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel,
crouch, crawl and climb ramps and stairs, but can never climb
ladders, ropes or scaffolds. She is limited to occasional
exposure to unprotected heights, moving mechanical parts, and
vibration, and must avoid concentrated exposure to slippery,
wet or moving surfaces.” Id.
• At Step Four, relying on the testimony of the
vocational expert (“VE”) considering Misty's
RFC, she was incapable of performing her past relevant work
as a waitress and utility worker. R. at 19.
• At Step Five, relying on the testimony of the VE and
in light of Misty's age (30 years old on the alleged
disability onset date, May 25, 2014), education (at least a
high school graduate), and RFC, there were jobs that existed
in significant numbers in the national economy that she could
have performed through the date of the decision. R. at 19-20.
review of the Deputy Commissioner's decision,
[w]e will uphold [it] if it applies the correct legal
standard and is supported by substantial evidence.
Castile v. Astrue, 617 F.3d 923, 926 (7th Cir.
2010). Substantial evidence is “‘such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.'” Id. (quoting
Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d 836, 841 (7th Cir.
2007)). A decision denying benefits need not discuss every
piece of evidence, but if it lacks an adequate discussion of
the issues, it will be remanded. Villano v. Astrue,
556 F.3d 558, 562 (7th Cir. 2009). Our review is limited to
the reasons articulated by the ALJ in her decision.
Larson v. Astrue, 615 F.3d 744, 749 (7th Cir. 2010).
Campbell v. Astrue, 627 F.3d 299, 306 (7th Cir.
2010). In determining whether the decision was properly
supported, we neither reweigh the evidence nor assess the
credibility of witness, nor substitute our judgment for the
Deputy Commissioner's. Lopez ex rel. Lopez
v. Barnhart, 336 F.3d 535, 539 (7th Cir. 2003).
presents three issues for review: whether the ALJ erred (1)
by failing to include a limitation in the RFC finding that
she would need to elevate her legs,  (2) in his evaluation of her
subjective symptoms, and (3) by giving only partial weight to
the opinion of her treating orthopedic specialist, Travis E.
Clegg, M.D. (“Dr. Clegg”). We agree the ALJ did
not provide an adequate explanation of how the above issues
were resolved in favor of denying benefits. This was
SSA's regulations and rulings, as interpreted by the
Seventh Circuit, impose on the ALJ a duty to articulate
certain critical aspects of his decision. “The
determination or decision must contain specific reasons for
the weight given to the individual's symptoms, be
consistent with and supported by the evidence, and be clearly
articulated so the individual and any subsequent reviewer can
assess how the adjudicator evaluated the individual's
symptoms.” Social Security Ruling 16-3p, 2017 WL
5180304 at *10. In assessing a claimant's symptoms, the
ALJ is ...