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Sarah G. v. Saul

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

July 31, 2019

SARAH G., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Sarah 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 affirms 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 May 25, 2015. (R. at 24.) After a hearing in 2017, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that Plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments of degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, with radiculopathy; left shoulder rotator cuff tear, status post repair; and carpal tunnel syndrome (“CTS”). (R. at 26.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of performing past relevant work as a restaurant manager. (R. at 32.) Therefore, the ALJ found her to be not disabled. (R. at 34.) 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 three reversible errors: the ALJ erred in weighing medical opinions, the ALJ's RFC determination was not supported by substantial evidence, and the ALJ erred in analyzing Plaintiff's subjective symptoms.

         (1) Medical Opinions

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in weighing the opinions of her treating physicians and the state agency doctors. A treating physician's opinion is to be given controlling weight because of the length and nature of the relationship unless the ALJ provides good reasons for setting aside that opinion. Brown v. Colvin, 845 F.3d 247, 252 (7th Cir. 2016). When a treating physician's opinion is not entitled to controlling weight, an ALJ must weigh it using such factors such as: the examining relationship; the length of the treatment relationship and the frequency of examination; ...


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