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Malonda G. v. Saul

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

August 19, 2019

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

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Malonda 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 (“ALJ's”) decision.

         A. Overview of the Case

         Plaintiff alleges that she became disabled on November 14, 2014. (R. at 15.) Plaintiff alleged to suffer from degenerative disk disease, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and obesity. (R. at 17.) The ALJ noted that Plaintiff also suffered from deep vein thrombosis beginning in December 2016. (Id.) However, medication and bed rest alleviated the pain caused by this condition. (R. at 18.) While the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from severe impairments (R. at 17), she concluded that Plaintiff could perform jobs that existed in significant numbers (R. at 25- 26). Therefore, the ALJ denied benefits. (R. at 26.) This decision became final when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (R. at 5.)

         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

         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 argues that the ALJ improperly evaluated the physician opinions and did not address evidence of her hand limitations. (Pl. Br. at 6, 18.) While the record might support the ALJ's decision, the ALJ did not adequately explain her conclusions. Therefore, this Court must remand.

         (1) The ALJ Improperly Evaluated the Opinions of ...


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