United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
BRYAN K. KUYKENDOLL, Plaintiff
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant
OPINION AND ORDER
L. MILLER, JR. JUDGE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
K. Kuykendoll seeks judicial review of a final decision by
the Commissioner of Social Security denying his applications
for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 423 and 1382 et seq. The court has
jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). For the reasons that follow, court denies Mr.
Kuykendoll's request to reverse the Administrative Law
Judge's decision or remand this action for further
proceedings, and affirms the ALJ's denial of benefits.
Kuykendoll alleged that his disability began on March 1,
2011. Mr. Kuykendoll's 2014 applications for disability
insurance benefits and supplemental security income were
denied in February 2017. Before this case, Mr. Kuykendoll had
filed applications for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income in 2003, 2010, 2012, and 2013.
These applications were denied and Mr. Kuykendoll didn't
appeal those decisions.
2017 hearing on these applications, the ALJ concluded that
Mr. Kuykendoll had numerous severe and non-severe
impairments. The severe impairments were degenerative disk
disease; left shoulder/rotator cuff status post-arthroscopic
surgery and rotator cuff repair; anxiety; and depression. The
non-severe impairments were mild sleep apnea; Hepatitis C;
benign prostatic hypertrophy (“BPH/enlarged
prostate”); chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
(“COPD”), asthma, and bronchitis; carpal
tunnel-like syndrome; left hip pain; a mild heart murmur; and
podiatry issues. The ALJ concluded that Mr. Kuykendoll's
impairments weren't severe enough, either singularly or
in combination, to meet or medically equal any of the
impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App'x
1. The ALJ considered listings 1.02A (major dysfunction of a
joint), 1.04 (disorders of the spine), and 12.06
(anxiety-related disorders) in his decision.
determined that Mr. Kuykendoll was mildly restricted in his
daily living. He could perform fine and gross shoulder
movements and had a normal gait and station, but couldn't
engage in sustained lifting, reaching, pushing, kneeling, or
crouching. The ALJ also determined that Mr. Kuykendoll was
mildly restricted in his social functioning and that his
impairments created moderate difficulties with concentration,
persistence, and pace. Mr. Kuykendoll lived with his mother.
He attended church occasionally and saw friends irregularly.
He struggled with group interaction but appeared to fare well
in one-on-one scenarios. He could cooperate with others,
follow directions, and foster romantic relationships. He
handled his own medical care and that of his mother, although
he sometimes struggled to recall detailed medical history.
Mental health providers at Oaklawn Psychiatric Center
determined that his attention and concentration were within
the normal limits.
found that Mr. Kuykendoll had the residual functional
capacity to perform unskilled, light exertional work with a
number of limitations. These included limitations on lifting,
carrying, pushing, reaching, climbing, and kneeling. The ALJ
further found that Mr. Kuykendoll was capable of work
involving interaction with superiors and the general public
and that he could also perform other work that existed in
significant numbers in the national economy.
concluded that Mr. Kuykendoll wasn't disabled within the
meaning of the Social Security Act and so wasn't entitled
to disability benefits.
Standard of Review
issue before the court isn't whether Mr. Kuykendoll is
disabled, but whether substantial evidence supports the
ALJ's decision that he wasn't disabled. Scott v.
Astrue, 647 F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir. 2011); Nelms v.
Astrue, 553 F.3d 1093, 1097 (7th Cir. 2009). Substantial
evidence means “such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971);
Jones v. Astrue, 623 F.3d 1155, 1160 (7th Cir.
2010). In reviewing the ALJ's decision, the court
can't reweigh the evidence, make independent findings of
fact, decide credibility, or substitute its own judgment for
that of the Commissioner, Simila v. Astrue, 573 F.3d
503, 513 (7th Cir. 2009); Powers v. Apfel, 207 F.3d
431, 434-435 (7th Cir. 2000), but instead must conduct
“a critical review of the evidence, considering both
the evidence that supports, as well as the evidence that
detracts from, the Commissioner's decision.”
Briscoe v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 351 (7th Cir.
2005). While the ALJ isn't required “to address
every piece of evidence or testimony presented, he must
provide a ‘logical bridge' between the evidence and
the conclusions so that [the court] can assess the validity
of the agency's ultimate findings and afford the claimant
meaningful judicial review.” Jones v. Astrue,
623 F.3d 1155, 1160 (7th Cir. 2010). ALJs must
“sufficiently articulate their assessment of the
evidence to assure [the court] that they considered the
important evidence and to enable [the court] to trace the
path of their reasoning.” Scott v. Barnhart,
297 F.3d 589, 595 (7th Cir. 2002) (internal quotations
Kuykendoll believes the ALJ made several errors requiring
remand: 1) that the ALJ erred in not including all relevant
limitations in his Residual Functional Capacity
determination; 2) that the ALJ erred in not giving a treating
physician's opinion controlling weight; and 3) that the
ALJ's erred in improperly overemphasizing Mr.
Kuykendoll's ability to complete daily activities. Mr.
Kuykendoll asks the court to either reverse the
Commissioner's decision and award benefits or remand the
case for further proceedings.
The Inclusion of All Relevant Limitations
Kuykendoll says the ALJ didn't properly include all his
relevant limitations in the determination of his residual
functional capacity. The ALJ must include all relevant
evidence in the residual functional capacity determination.
20 C.F.R. § ...