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Hopkins v. Berryhill

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

March 29, 2019

WADE HOPKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Wade Hopkins 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.

         A. Overview of the Case

          Plaintiff states that he became disabled on March 1, 2013. (R. at 40.) Plaintiff worked as a cost accountant from January 1991 until he was laid off in October 2009 and has not worked since. (R. at 42, 228.) Mr. Hopkins filed a claim for disability on the basis of depression, hypertension, obesity, and degenerative disc disease. After hearing the evidence, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that Mr. Hopkins had a sufficient residual functional capacity to perform his past relevant work. (R. at 31.) After finding at step four of the analysis that Mr. Hopkins could perform past relevant work, the ALJ denied the claimant's disability benefit request. (R. at 32.)

         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

         To determine eligibility for disability benefits under the Social Security Act, the ALJ will perform a five-step inquiry:

“(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 burden of proof resides with the claimant for the first four steps, shifting to the Commissioner for determination of disability at step five. Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir. 2000).

         D. Analysis

         The ALJ committed three reversible errors: (1) the ALJ improperly cites Plaintiff's lack of compliance with a treatment regimen without exploring reasons for Plaintiff's non-compliance (Pl.'s Br. at 18.); (2) the ALJ did not sufficiently support the weight accorded to Plaintiff's mother's Third Party Function Report; (Pl. Br. at 18.); and (3) the ALJ did not sufficiently develop the evidence that plaintiff could perform past relevant work. (Pl.'s Br. at 9.).

         (1) Failure to follow ...


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