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Kristie C. v. Saul

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

August 21, 2019

KRISTIE C., [1]Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ORDER

          SARAH EVANS BARKER, JUDGE

         Plaintiff Kristie C. (“Kristie”) has appealed the final decision of the Commissioner (“Commissioner”) of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denying her February 25, 2015, application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”). R. (Dkt. 7) at 10. The application was initially denied on May 4, 2015, R. at 87, and upon reconsideration on July 16, 2015. R. at 97. The administrative law judge (“ALJ”) conducted a hearing on May 26, 2017, R. at 37, resulting in a decision on September 13, 2017, ruling that Kristie was not disabled and thus not entitled to receive DIB. R. at 7. The Appeals Council denied review on June 18, 2018, and the Commissioner's decision became final. R. at 1. On August 13, 2018, Kristie timely filed this civil action seeking judicial review of the decision, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Dkt. 1.

         For the reasons below, the decision is reversed and the case remanded for action consistent with this order.

         Background [2]

         The ALJ followed the five-step sequential evaluation set forth by the SSA, see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i) to (v), in concluding that Kristie was not disabled. Specifically, the ALJ found as follows:

• Kristie last met the insured status requirements for DIB on December 31, 2016 (the date last insured or “DLI”).[3] R. at 12.
• At Step One, Kristie had not engaged in substantial gainful activity[4] since the alleged onset date of disability. Id.
• At Step Two, she had the following severe impairments: “fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, morbid obesity, depression, and anxiety.” Id. (citation omitted).
• At Step Three, she did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments. R. at 13.
• After Step Three but before Step Four, Kristie had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) “to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except she would have been unable to climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds and she would have been unable to crawl. She would have been able to occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, and crouch. She would have needed to have no more than occasional exposure to workplace hazards such as unprotected heights and dangerous machinery. She would have been able to perform understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions, she would have been able to respond appropriately to supervision and coworkers in usual work situations, should would [sic] have been able to deal with changes in a routine work setting.” R. at 14.
• At Step Four, relying on the testimony of the vocational expert (“VE”) and considering Kristie's RFC, she was incapable of performing any of her past relevant work. R. at 18.
• At Step Five, relying on the testimony of the VE and in light of Kristie's age (45 years of age on the DLI), education (at least a high school graduate), and RFC, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that she could have performed, including representative occupations such as a cashier, merchandise marker, and router. R. at 18-19.

         Standard of Review

          Upon review of the Commissioner's decision,

[w]e will uphold [it] if it applies the correct legal standard and is supported by substantial evidence. Castile v. Astrue, 617 F.3d 923, 926 (7th Cir. 2010). Substantial evidence is “‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'” Id. (quoting Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d 836, 841 (7th Cir. 2007)). A decision denying benefits need not discuss every piece of evidence, but if it lacks an adequate discussion of the issues, it will be remanded. Villano v. Astrue, 556 F.3d 558, 562 (7th Cir. 2009). Our review is limited to the reasons articulated by the ALJ in his decision. Larson v. Astrue, 615 F.3d 744, 749 (7th Cir. 2010).

Campbell v. Astrue, 627 F.3d 299, 306 (7th Cir. 2010). In determining whether the decision was properly supported, we neither reweigh the evidence nor assess the credibility of witness, nor substitute our judgment for the Commissioner's. Lopez ex rel. ...


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