United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Analissa Johnson appeals the denial of her claims for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income. For the following reasons, the Court will remand this
matter to the Commissioner for further proceedings consistent
with this opinion.
Johnson, 45, suffers from bipolar disorder and PTSD. She has
experienced very significant trauma in her life, as set forth
at R. 46-48, 485, 516, 521, 526, and 730. On April 5, 2014,
Ms. Johnson suffered a heart attack (R. 356), which appears
to have intensified the symptoms associated with her
Johnson filed applications for disability insurance benefits
and supplemental security income on August 4, 2014, alleging
disability beginning April 5 of that same year. Her date of
last insured was March 31, 2015. Ms. Johnson's
application was denied initially, on reconsideration, and
following an administrative hearing in March 2017 at which
she was represented by counsel. At that hearing, the ALJ
heard testimony from Ms. Johnson and vocational expert
(“VE”) Sharon Ringenberg. The ALJ found that Ms.
Johnson had some severe impairments but that she has not been
disabled since April 5, 2014. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920. The Appeals Council denied
review, 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, 416.920. These steps require the Court
to sequentially determine:
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 ...