United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. Rodovich United States Magistrate Judge
matter is before the court on petition for judicial review of
the decision of the Commissioner filed by the plaintiff, Mary
L., on May 9, 2018. For the following reasons, the decision
of the Commissioner is REMANDED.
plaintiff, Mary L., filed an application for Disability
Insurance Benefits on March 3, 2015, alleging a disability
onset date of April 15, 2014. (Tr. 15). The Disability
Determination Bureau denied her application initially on May
5, 2015, and again upon reconsideration on June 9, 2015. (Tr.
15). Mary L. subsequently filed a timely request for a
hearing on June 27, 2015. (Tr. 15). A video hearing was held
on May 12, 2017, before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Lana
Johnson, and the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on July
6, 2017. (Tr. 15-22). Vocational Expert (VE) Michelle Marie
Peters-Pagella testified at the hearing by telephone. (Tr.
15). The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-6).
meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security
Act through December 31, 2019. (Tr. 17). At step one of the
five-step sequential analysis for determining whether an
individual is disabled, the ALJ found that Mary L. had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 15, 2014,
the alleged onset date. (Tr. 17).
two, the ALJ determined that Mary L. had the following severe
impairments: fibromyalgia, obesity, and diabetes. (Tr. 17).
The ALJ indicated that Mary L. had a history of
hyperlipidemia, hypothyroidism, and hypertension but that the
impairments were well-controlled with medication and
therefore were not severe. (Tr. 17).
three, the ALJ concluded that Mary L. did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
(Tr. 18). The ALJ considered Mary L.'s impairments
against the criteria set forth in listings 1.02, 1.04, and
9.00. (Tr. 18).
consideration of the entire record, the ALJ then assessed
Mary L.'s residual functional capacity (RFC) as follows:
The claimant has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1567(a) except no climbing of ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds; no more than occasional climbing of ramps and
stairs, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, or
crawling; no more than occasional exposure to unprotected
heights and dangerous heavy moving machinery; no more than
frequent reaching overhead bilaterally; and no more than
frequent handling and fingering bilaterally.
(Tr. 18). The ALJ explained that in considering Mary L.'s
symptoms she followed a two-step process. (Tr. 18). First,
she determined whether there was an underlying determinable
physical or mental impairment that was shown by a medically
acceptable clinical or laboratory diagnostic technique that
reasonably could be expected to produce Mary L.'s pain or
other symptoms. (Tr. 18). Then, she evaluated the intensity,
persistence, and limiting effects of the symptoms to
determine the extent to which they limited Mary L.'s
functioning. (Tr. 18-19).
indicated that she was unable to work because of her
diabetes, fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, and kidney disease.
(Tr. 19). The ALJ noted that Mary L. was able to prepare her
own meals, complete chores, drive a car, and go shopping.
(Tr. 19). Mary L. testified that she had pain throughout her
body. (Tr. 19). However, the ALJ found that the medical
findings did not support her allegations of disabling
symptoms and limitations. (Tr. 19). The ALJ indicated that
the medically determinable impairments reasonably could be
expected to cause the alleged symptoms. (Tr. 20). However,
her statements concerning the intensity, persistence, and
limiting effects of the symptoms were not entirely consistent
with the medical evidence and other evidence in the record.
four, the ALJ found that Mary L. was able to perform her past
relevant work as a unit manager. (Tr. 22). The ALJ determined
that the work did not require the performance of work-related
activities precluded by the RFC. (Tr. 22). The ALJ found that
Mary L. had not been under a disability, as defined in the
Social Security Act, from April 15, 2014 through the date of
this decision, July 6, 2017. (Tr. 15-22).
standard for judicial review of an ALJ's finding that a
claimant is not disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act is limited to a determination of whether those
findings are supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) (“The findings of the Commissioner of
Social Security, as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive.”); Moore v.
Colvin, 743 F.3d 1118, 1120-21 (7th Cir. 2014);
Bates v. Colvin, 736 F.3d 1093, 1097 (7th Cir. 2013)
(“We will uphold the Commissioner's final decision
if the ALJ applied the correct legal standards and supported
his decision with substantial evidence.”). Courts have
defined substantial evidence as “such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept to support such a
conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 1427, 28 L.Ed.2d 852 (1972) (quoting
Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229, 59
S.Ct. 206, 217, 83 L.Ed.2d 140 (1938)); see Bates,
736 F.3d at 1098. A court must affirm an ALJ's decision
if the ALJ supported her findings with substantial evidence