United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
R. CHERRY MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by
Plaintiff Chelsea Elaine Haugli on August 30, 2017, and a
Social Security Opening Brief of Plaintiff [DE 17], filed on
February 6, 2018. Plaintiff requests that the December 8,
2016 decision of the Administrative Law Judge denying her
claim for disability insurance benefits and supplemental
security income be reversed and remanded for further
proceedings. On March 16, 2018, the Commissioner filed a
response, and Plaintiff filed a reply on April 2, 2018. For
the following reasons, the Court denies Plaintiff's
request for remand.
12, 2014, and July 14, 2014, Plaintiff filed applications for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income, respectively, alleging disability beginning May 11,
2014. The applications were denied initially and on
reconsideration. Plaintiff requested a hearing, and, on
September 15, 2016, Administrative Law Judge Terry Miller
(“ALJ”) held a hearing by video conference. In
attendance at the hearing were Plaintiff, Plaintiff's
mother, Plaintiff's attorney, and an impartial vocational
expert. On December 8, 2016, the ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision, making the following findings:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2018.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since May 11, 2014, the alleged onset date.
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: history
of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) (Exhibits 17F, 24F, 25F, 31F,
39F); mild to moderate degenerative joint disease of the left
knee (Exhibit 27F); history of iron deficiency anemia
(Exhibits 15F, 18F, 25F, 39F); mild to moderate obesity
(Exhibit 31F); Asperger's disorder/autism spectrum
disorder (Exhibits 26F, 35F, 37F, 38F, 40F); borderline
intellectual functioning to low average range IQ/learning
disorder (Exhibits 20F; 26F; 35F; 40F).
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform “light” work as
defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) (i.e. lifting,
carrying, pushing, and pulling up to 20 pounds occasionally
and 10 pounds frequently; sitting at least up to six out of
eight hours in an eight hour workday; and standing/walking,
in combination, at least six out of eight hours in an eight
hour workday). However, the claimant would have additional
work-related limitations as follows: Additional limitations
include a need for an option to sit/stand, which allows for
the following- The opportunity to alternate between sitting
and standing up to every 30 minutes, if needed, without the
positional change rendering the individual off task. The
claimant is further limited to only occasional climbing of
ramps/stairs, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching and
crawling, and never climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds.
Other physical limitations include only frequent bilateral
handling and fingering with no forceful grasping/gripping of
the hands, and the need to avoid concentrated exposure to
extreme cold, heat and humidity such that work should be in
an indoor temperature controlled environment. Mentally, the
claimant cannot have no[sic] sudden or unpredictable
processes, or work settings, and if there are work place
changes, introduction of these would should [sic] be gradual.
In addition, the work activity cannot involve requirements to
satisfy production quotas or involve assembly line pace work.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work.
7. The claimant was born [in 1988] and was 25 years old,
which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the
alleged disability onset date.
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English.
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the
determination of disability because using the
Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding
that the claimant is“not disabled, ” whether or
not the claimant has transferable job skills.
10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that the claimant can perform.
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from May 11, 2014, through the
date of this decision.
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review,
leaving the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981,
416.1481. Plaintiff filed this civil action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c) for review of the
parties filed forms of consent to have this case assigned to
a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all further
proceedings and to order the entry of a final judgment in
this case. Therefore, this Court has jurisdiction to decide
this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and 42 U.S.C.
Social Security Act authorizes judicial review of the final
decision of the agency and indicates that the
Commissioner's factual findings must be accepted as
conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). 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. See Briscoe v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d
345, 351 (7th Cir. 2005). Substantial evidence consists of
“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) (quoting Gudgel v. Barnhart, 345 F.3d 467, 470
(7th Cir. 2003)).
reviews the entire administrative record but does not
reconsider facts, re-weigh the evidence, resolve conflicts in
evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ.
See Boiles v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 421, 425 (7th Cir.
2005); Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 869 (7th
Cir. 2000); Butera v. Apfel, 173 F.3d 1049, 1055
(7th Cir. 1999). Thus, the question upon judicial review of
an ALJ's finding that a claimant is not disabled within
the meaning of the Social Security Act 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) (citing
O'Connor-Spinner v. Astrue, 627 F.3d 614, 618
(7th Cir. 2010); Prochaska v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d
731, 734-35 (7th Cir. 2006); Barnett v. Barnhart,
381 F.3d 664, 668 (7th Cir. 2004)). “[I]f the
Commissioner commits an error of law, ” the Court may
reverse the decision “without regard to the volume of
evidence in support of the factual findings.” White
v. Apfel, 167 F.3d 369, 373 (7th Cir. 1999) (citing
Binion v. Chater, 108 F.3d 780, 782 (7th Cir.
minimum, 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. See Scott v. Barnhart, 297 F.3d
589, 595 (7th Cir. 2002); Diaz v. Chater, 55 F.3d
300, 307 (7th Cir. 1995); Green v. Shalala, 51 F.3d
96, 101 (7th Cir. 1995). An ALJ must “‘build an
accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to [the]
conclusion' so that [a reviewing court] may assess the
validity of the agency's final decision and afford [a
claimant] meaningful review.” Giles v. Astrue,
483 F.3d 483, 487 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Scott,
297 F.3d at 595)); see also O'Connor-Spinner,
627 F.3d at 618 (“An ALJ need not specifically address
every piece of evidence, but must provide a ‘logical
bridge' between the evidence and his
conclusions.”); Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d
881, 889 (7th Cir. 2001) (“[T]he ALJ's analysis
must provide some glimpse into the reasoning behind [the]
decision to deny benefits.”).
eligible for disability benefits, a claimant must establish
that she suffers from a “disability” as defined
by the Social Security Act and regulations. The Act defines
“disability” as an inability to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment that can be
expected to result in death or that has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
twelve months. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A),
1382c(a)(3)(A). To be found disabled, the claimant's
impairment must not only prevent her from doing her previous
work, but considering her age, education, and work
experience, it must also prevent her from engaging in any
other type of substantial gainful activity that exists in
significant numbers in the economy. 42 U.S.C. §§
423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B); 20 C.F.R. §§
claimant alleges a disability, Social Security regulations
provide a five-step inquiry to evaluate whether the claimant
is entitled to benefits. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). The steps are: (1) Is the
claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity? If yes, the
claimant is not disabled, and the claim is denied; if no, the
inquiry proceeds to step two; (2) Does the claimant have an
impairment or combination of impairments that are severe? If
no, the claimant is not disabled, and the claim is denied; if
yes, the inquiry proceeds to step three; (3) Do(es) the
impairment(s) meet or equal a listed impairment in the
appendix to the regulations? If yes, the claimant is
automatically considered disabled; if no, then the inquiry
proceeds to step four; (4) Can the claimant do the
claimant's past relevant work? If yes, the claimant is
not disabled, and the claim is denied; if no, then the
inquiry proceeds to step five; (5) Can the claimant perform
other work given the claimant's residual functional