United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
MARIA R. CARRASCO, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
E. MARTIN MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by
Plaintiff Maria R. Carrasco on January 23, 2018, and
Plaintiff's Memorandum in Support of her Motion to
Reverse the Decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
[DE 17], filed on June 27, 2018. Plaintiff requests that the
decision of the Administrative Law Judge be reversed and
remanded for further proceedings. On July 31, 2018, the
Commissioner filed a response, and Plaintiff filed a reply on
August 30, 2018.
27, 2014, Plaintiff filed applications for disability
insurance benefits and supplemental security income, alleging
that she became disabled on November 18, 2011.
Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon
reconsideration. On September 27, 2016, Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) Michael Pendola held a hearing at
which Plaintiff, with an attorney representative, and a
vocational expert testified. On February 1, 2017, the ALJ
issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled,
and Plaintiff appealed the decision.
made the following findings under the required five-step
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through September 30, 2017.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since November 18, 2011, the alleged onset date.
3. The claimant has the following severe impairment:
degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one the listed impairments in 20 CFR 404, Subpart P, Appendix
5. The claimant has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except she
should never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; she can
occasionally climb ramps and stairs and stoop; she can
frequently balance, kneel, crouch, and crawl.
6. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work
as a f a c t o r y h e l p e r . This work does not require
the performance of work-related activities precluded by the
claimant's residual functional capacity.
7. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from November 18, 2011, through
the date of the 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) for review of the Agency's decision.
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.
Standard of Review
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, decide questions of credibility, 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, as a reviewing court, we 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