United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Rose Marie Stoughton appeals the denial of her claim for
supplemental security income. For the following reasons, the
Court will remand this matter to the Commissioner for further
Stoughton filed her application for supplemental security
income on February 24, 2015, alleging disability beginning
January 1, 2009. Ms. Stoughton's application was denied
initially, on reconsideration, and following an
administrative hearing in May 2017 at which she was
represented by counsel. Ultimately, the ALJ found that Ms.
Stoughton had some severe impairments but that she had not
been disabled since February 24, 2015. See 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920. The Appeals Council denied review of the
ALJ's decision, making the ALJ's decision the final
determination of the Commissioner.
the Appeals Council denied review, the Court evaluates the
ALJ's decision as the final word of the Commissioner of
Social Security. Schomas v. Colvin, 732 F.3d 702,
707 (7th Cir. 2013). The Court will affirm the
Commissioner's denial of disability benefits if it is
supported by substantial evidence. Craft v. Astrue,
539 F.3d 668, 673 (7th Cir. 2008). Substantial evidence
consists of “such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). It
must be “more than a scintilla but may be less than a
preponderance.” Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d
836, 841 (7th Cir. 2007). Thus, even if “reasonable
minds could differ” about the disability status of the
claimant, the Court will affirm the Commissioner's
decision as long as it is adequately supported. Elder v.
Astrue, 529 F.3d 408, 413 (7th Cir. 2008).
substantial-evidence determination, the Court does not
reweigh evidence, resolve conflicts, decide questions of
credibility or substitute the Court's own judgment for
that of the Commissioner. Lopez v. Barnhart, 336
F.3d 535, 539 (7th Cir. 2003). The Court does, however,
critically review the record to ensure that the ALJ's
decision is supported by the evidence and contains an
adequate discussion of the issues. Id. The ALJ must
evaluate both the evidence favoring the claimant as well as
the evidence favoring the claim's rejection; he may not
ignore an entire line of evidence that is contrary to his
findings. Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d 881, 887 (7th
Cir. 2001). The ALJ must also “articulate at some
minimal level his analysis of the evidence” to permit
informed review. Id. Ultimately, while the ALJ is
not required to address every piece of evidence or testimony
presented, he must provide a “logical bridge”
between the evidence and his conclusions. Terry v.
Astrue, 580 F.3d 471, 475 (7th Cir. 2009).
benefits are available only to individuals who are disabled
under the terms of the Social Security Act. Estok v.
Apfel, 152 F.3d 636, 638 (7th Cir. 1998). A claimant is
disabled if he or she is unable “to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The Social
Security regulations contain a five-step test to ascertain
whether the claimant has established a disability. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920. These steps require the Court to sequentially
1. Whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial
2. Whether the claimant has a medically severe impairment;
3. Whether the claimant's impairment meets or equals one
listed in the regulations;
4. Whether the claimant can still perform relevant past work;
5. Whether the claimant can perform other work in the