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Echterling v. Berryhill

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

March 28, 2019

ANGELA M. ECHTERLING, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Angela Marie Echterling 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 affirms the ALJ's decision.

         A. Overview of the Case

          Plaintiff alleges that she became disabled on January 1, 2000. (R. at 13.) Plaintiff most recently worked as a shift manager at a bowling alley, but she has not worked since 2001. (R. at 253.) The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that Plaintiff suffered from the severe physical impairments of fibromyalgia and degenerative disc disease. (R. at 15.) However, the ALJ concluded the Plaintiff could perform jobs that existed in significant numbers. (R. at 21-22.) Therefore, the ALJ denied her benefits. (R. at 22.) This 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, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (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 that the ALJ erred in finding that she was not disabled. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ's decision was not supported by substantial evidence in the record (particularly in reference to her medical records) and that the ALJ erred in evaluating her degenerative disc disease and subjective symptoms.

         (1) The ALJ Properly Weighed and Considered Medical Evidence

          Plaintiff first takes issue with the ALJ's interpretation of the medical evidence. Plaintiff states that the ALJ misinterpreted medical files that were ambiguous, but she does not explain what ...


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