United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
JAMES E. BLACKWELL, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant. N o.
OPINION AND ORDER
S. VAN BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
James Earnest Blackwell seeks judicial review of the Social
Security Commissioner's decision denying him disability
benefits, and asks this Court to remand the case. For the
reasons below, this Court remands the ALJ's decision.
Overview of the Case
alleges that he became disabled on January 1, 2012. (R. at
581.) Plaintiff worked as a photographer prior to aggravated
diverticulitis symptoms in 2012. (R. at 605.) Plaintiff was
found to be not disabled after a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) in 2014. (R. at
38.) Plaintiff appealed to the District Court. The District
Court remanded the case, and the Appeals Council directed the
ALJ to give further consideration to treating and nontreating
medical source opinions, to reconsider Plaintiff's RFC,
and to obtain supplemental evidence from a vocational expert
if warranted by the expanded record. (R. at 738-39.) After a
new hearing, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the
severe impairments of gastrointestinal disorder, irritable
bowel syndrome, and osteoarthritis, as well as the non-severe
impairment of adjustment disorder. (R. at 584.) The ALJ did,
however, find that a number of jobs existed which Plaintiff
could perform. (R. at 588.) Therefore, the ALJ found him to
be not disabled prior to January 12, 2016, and denied him
benefits for that period. (R. at 588-89.) Plaintiff turned
fifty on January 12, 2016, and considering his age,
education, work experience, and RFC, he was determined to be
disabled as of that date. (R. at 588.) This decision became
final when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review. (R. at 688.)
Standard of Review
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, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971).
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).
claims that the ALJ committed two reversible errors: (1) the
ALJ improperly evaluated the opinion of treating physician
Dr. Cherenfant. (Pl.'s Br. At 7.); and (2) the ALJ erred
in evaluating Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”). (Pl.'s Br. At 13.) These complaints
will be addressed in order.
Plaintiff takes issue with the ALJ's treatment of the
medical opinion of Dr. Jovenel Cherenfant, M.D. (Pl.'s
Br. At 7.) Dr. Cherenfant treated Plaintiff for over a year
and a half before completing a Bowel Disorder medical Source
Statement in January 2014. (R. at 559.) Dr. Cherenfant listed
Plaintiff's diagnoses as diffuse colonic diverticulitis
and irritable bowel syndrome. (R. at 559.) Dr. Cherenfant
stated that although Plaintiff's symptoms improved after
his total colectomy, diarrhea remained an ...