United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
TRACY A. LADRA, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SIMON, JUDGE
Ladra appeals the Social Security Administration's
decision to deny her application for disability insurance
benefits. An administrative law judge ruled Ladra was not
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Ladra
challenges that decision on two grounds. First, she disputes
the ALJ's residual functional capacity (RFC) finding.
Second, Ladra takes issue with the ALJ's evaluation of
her daily living activities. Neither issue is grounds for
found that Ladra had the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease with cervical and lumbar stenosis
and headaches; hypertension; pseudo seizures; bipolar
disorder; and borderline personality disorder. [Tr.
In his opinion, the ALJ provided a detailed description of
the medical evidence in the record which need not be repeated
here. [See Tr. at 19-26.]
diving into Ladra's arguments, let's go over some
basics about my role in reviewing an ALJ's decision. I am
not supposed to determine from scratch whether or not Ladra
is disabled. Rather, I only need to determine whether the ALJ
applied the correct legal standards and whether the decision
is supported by substantial evidence. See 42 U.S.C.
§405(g); Shideler v. Astrue, 688 F.3d 306, 310
(7th Cir. 2012); Castile v. Astrue, 617 F.3d 923,
926 (7th Cir. 2010); Overman v. Astrue, 546 F.3d
456, 462 (7th Cir. 2008).
review of the ALJ's decision is deferential. This is
because the “substantial evidence” standard is
not a particularly rigorous one. In fact, it's less than
a preponderance-of-the-evidence standard. Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). There certainly has
to be more than a “scintilla” of evidence.
Id. So in conducting my review, I cannot
“simply rubber-stamp the Commissioner's decision
without a critical review of the evidence.”
Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 869 (7th Cir.
2000). Nonetheless, the review is a light one and the
substantial evidence standard is met “if a reasonable
person would accept it as adequate to support the
conclusion.” Young v. Barnhart, 362 F.3d 995,
1001 (7th Cir. 2004).
first issue raised by Ladra is whether the RFC was properly
determined by the ALJ. RFC is a measure of what an individual
can do despite the limitations imposed by her impairments. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1545(a). The RFC is “a
function-by-function assessment based upon all of the
relevant evidence of an individual's ability to do
work-related activities.” SSR 96-8p, 1996 WL 374184, at
*3. In assessing the RFC, the ALJ should consider all of the
medically determinable impairments. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1545; SSR 96-8p, 1996 WL 374184, at *3, 7. It is the
claimant's responsibility to provide medical evidence
showing how her impairments affect her functioning. 20 C.F.R.
the ALJ need not mention every piece of evidence in the
record, the RFC determination must provide an “accurate
and logical bridge” between the evidence and the
conclusion that the claimant is not disabled. Zblewski v.
Astrue, 302 Fed.Appx. 488, 492 (7th Cir. 2008);
Terry v. Astrue, 580 F.3d 471, 475 (7th Cir. 2009).
The regulations have explained that an ALJ should consider
limitations and restrictions imposed by a person's
impairments, even those that are not severe, because while
“a ‘not severe' impairment(s) standing alone
may not significantly limit an individual's ability to do
basic work activities, it may - - when considered with
limitations or restrictions due to other impairments - - be
critical to the outcome of a claim.” SSR 96-8p, 1996 WL
374184, at *5.
the detailed RFC arrived at by the ALJ:
[T]he claimant had the residual functional capacity to
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except
the claimant can occasionally lift and carry up to 20 pounds
and frequently up to 10 pounds; can sit, stand, and walk for
2 hours each at one time and for up to 6 hours in an 8 hour
day; can frequently reach overhead with the right and left
hand and frequently push or pull and can continuously reach
all other, handle, finger, and feel bilaterally. The claimant
can frequently operate foot controls bilaterally. She can
never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds but can occasionally
climb ramps and stairs and occasionally kneel, crouch, and
The claimant can frequently balance and stoop. The claimant
can never work at unprotected heights, around moving
mechanical parts, or operate a motor vehicle. She can
occasionally tolerate exposure to vibrations and frequently
to humidity, wetness, dusts, odors, fumes, pulmonary
irritants, extreme cold, and extreme heat. Noise is moderate,
office. The claimant is capable of managing simple, routine
work tasks mentally, within a work environment with only
occasional and uncomplicated workplace interactions with
routine and predictable workplace stressors. The claimant is
able to understand, remember, and carryout simple
instructions and to make judgments on simple work related
decisions, to respond to usual work situations and to changes
in a routine work setting. The claimant is limited to
occasional interaction with coworkers and supervisors and the
public. The claimant requires work free of production rate
pace but she could have an end of day production quota.
[Tr. at 20-21.]
skeletal brief challenging the RFC determination fails to
connect the dots. Instead, she simply provides a sort of
laundry-list of non-severe impairments that she says the ALJ
failed to adequately take into account in the RFC. The
checklist includes headaches, occipital neuralgia, bipolar
disorder, Tietze's disease, brachial neuritis, and any
limitations relating to lighting/photophobia. [DE 24 at
12-13.] Providing a checklist is not the same as providing
analysis of the evidence in the record that the ALJ allegedly
ignored. Ladra has failed to elaborate on how these
impairments should have been considered or how that
consideration would result in a change of her limitations or
a finding of disability. Id.
event, contrary to Ladra's claim, I think the ALJ did a
commendable job analyzing her combined impairments and
substantial evidence supports his RFC findings. Let's
start with the first impairment on Ladra's list: the
headaches. The ALJ did consider Ladra's
headaches. He noted her complaints about headache-related
symptoms, and that she was diagnosed with chronic headaches,
then alternatively, migraines with cluster headaches. [Tr. at
21, 23, 1494, 1497, 1627.] The ALJ discussed at length that
Ladra treated her symptoms with a series of medications and
received depro-medrol and lidocaine injections every three
months, which Ladra reported “were helpful.” [Tr.
at 23, 1631-32, 1640-41.] The ALJ also noted that when ...