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Gandy v. Berryhil

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

July 15, 2019

MARILYN GANDY, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Marilyn G. 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 Administrative Law Judge's decision.

         A. Overview of the Case

         Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI. In her application, Plaintiff alleged that she became disabled on August 26, 2014. (R. at 10.) After a hearing in 2016, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that Plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments of congestive heart failure (“CHF”), deficiency anemias, and essential hypertension. (R. at 12.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work. (R. at 16.) The ALJ did, however, find that a number of jobs existed which Plaintiff could perform. (R. at 17-18.) Therefore, the ALJ found her to be not disabled. (Id.) 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 contends that the ALJ committed four reversible errors: the ALJ erred at Step Three in failing to find Plaintiff's CHF did not meet or equal listing 4.02; the ALJ erred in weighing Plaintiff's subjective symptoms; the ALJ improperly weighed medical opinion evidence; and the ALJ erred in accepting vocational testimony regarding the availability of work.

         (1) Treating Physician

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in weighing the opinion of Dr. Surendra Paes, M.D., Plaintiff's treating physician. Dr. Paes opined that stress and anxiety contributed to the severity of Plaintiff's heart failure. (R. at 617.) Moreover, he opined that Plaintiff could walk less than one block, sit for only thirty minutes at a time, stand for only ten minutes at a time, and sit or stand for less than two hours total in the day. Id. Dr. Paes also opined that ...


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