United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Marc Dale Royer appeals the denial of his claim for
disability insurance benefits. For the following reasons, the
Court remands this matter to the Commissioner for further
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Royer filed his initial application for benefits on October
21, 2014, alleging disability beginning October 30, 2013. Dr.
Royer's application was denied initially, on
reconsideration, and following an administrative hearing in
January 2017 at which he was represented by counsel. At that
hearing, the ALJ heard testimony from Dr. Royer, his wife,
and vocational expert Charles McBee. The ALJ found that Dr.
Royer had the severe impairment of asthma but that he was not
disabled since October 30, 2013. See 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520. The Appeals Council denied review of the
ALJ's decision, making it the final determination of the
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(a)(4). These steps require the Court to
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 the regulations;
4. Whether the claimant can still perform relevant past work;
5. Whether the claimant can perform other work in the
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4); Dixon v. Massanari,
270 F.3d 1171, 1176 (7th Cir. 2001). At step three, if the
ALJ determines that the claimant's impairment or
combination of impairments meets or equals an impairment
listed in the regulations, the Commissioner acknowledges
disability. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). However, if
a listing is not met or equaled, the ALJ must assess the
claimant's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) between steps three and four. The RFC is
then used to determine whether the claimant can perform past
work under step four and whether the claimant can perform
other work in society at step five. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(e). The claimant has the burden of proof in steps
one through four, while the burden shifts to the ...