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Green v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

March 27, 2019

DANEEN R GREEN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Daneen R. Green seeks judicial review of the Social Security Commissioner's decision denying her disability benefits and asks this Court to remand the case. For the reasons below, this Court remands the ALJ's decision.

         A. Overview of the Case

          This is Plaintiff's third appearance before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) to obtain disability benefits. Her first attempt ended in failure. (R. at 87.) Rather than seek recourse with this Court, Plaintiff filed another disability application with an alleged onset date of July 9, 2011, one day after the unfavorable decision. (R. at 170.) A different ALJ denied the new application. (R. at 24.) This time, Plaintiff sought review in this Court, but the parties agreed to remand the case. (R. at 816.) The Appeals Council then sent Plaintiff back to the second ALJ for another hearing. (R. at 826-28). In the meantime, Plaintiff filed yet another application for benefits, which the ALJ consolidated. (R. at 828.) At Plaintiff's new hearing-her third-the ALJ found that she suffered from several severe physical and mental impairments, notably bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. (R. at 675). But the ALJ again concluded she could perform jobs that existed in significant numbers. (R. at 683.) Therefore, the ALJ denied her benefits. (R. at 684.) That decision became final when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (R. at 1.)

         B. Standard of Review

          This Court has authority to review the Commissioner's decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Court will ensure that the ALJ built an “accurate and logical bridge” from evidence to conclusion. Thomas v. Colvin, 745 F.3d 802, 806 (7th Cir. 2014). This requires the ALJ to “confront the [plaintiff's] evidence” and “explain why it was rejected.” Thomas v. Colvin, 826 F.3d 953, 961 (7th Cir. 2016). The Court will uphold decisions that apply the correct legal standard and are supported by substantial evidence. Briscoe ex rel. Taylor v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 351 (7th Cir. 2005). Evidence is substantial if “a reasonable mind might accept [it] as adequate to support [the ALJ's] conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).

         C. Disability Standard

         The Commissioner follows a five-step inquiry in evaluating claims for disability benefits under the Social Security Act:

(1) whether the claimant is currently employed; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment; (3) whether the claimant's impairment is one that the Commissioner considers conclusively disabling; (4) if the claimant does not have a conclusively disabling impairment, whether he can perform his past relevant work; and (5) whether the claimant is capable of performing any work in the national economy.

Kastner v. Astrue, 697 F.3d 642, 646 (7th Cir. 2012).

         The claimant bears the burden of proof at every step except step five. Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir. 2000).

         D. Analysis

         Plaintiff argues the ALJ (1) failed to properly recognize many of her alleged symptoms; (2) mis-weighed a medical opinion; and (3) improperly translated her concentration, persistence, and pace issues into skill limitations. While the ALJ's decision is not as flawed as Plaintiff asserts, the ALJ left open an entire line of evidence, thus ruining his accurate and logical bridge. This Court must therefore remand.[1]

         (1) The ALJ Must Address Plaintiff's ...


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