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Doloris T. v. Berryhill

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

August 22, 2019

DOLORIS T., Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Doloris T. seeks judicial review of the decision denying her disability benefits and asks this Court to remand the case. For the reasons below, this Court remands the ALJ's decision.

         A. Overview of the Case

         Plaintiff alleges that she became disabled on January 1, 2010. (R. at 159.) She meets insurance requirements through September 30, 2015. (R. at 159.) Before filing for disability, Plaintiff worked with various home healthcare providers as a home health aide from 1998 until 2010. (R. at 150-53.) Plaintiff claims disability as of January 1, 2010, due to a combination of damage to her knees as well as a near-total tear of the supraspinatus. (R. at 44.) The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that Plaintiff was able to perform a number of jobs in the national and local economy. (R. at 26.) As a result, the ALJ denied her disability benefit request on August 26, 2016. (R. at 27.)

         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

         To determine eligibility for disability benefits under the Social Security Act, the ALJ will perform a five-step inquiry:

“(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 burden of proof resides with the claimant for the first four steps, shifting to the Commissioner for determination of disability at step five. Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir. 2000).

         D. Analysis

         Plaintiff asserts the ALJ committed reversible error in assessing an RFC which did not include her limitations from her tear of the supraspinatus (Pl.'s Br. at 1). The ALJ is required to consider all the relevant available medical evidence. Garfield v. Schweiker, 732 F.2d 605, 609 (7th Cir. 1984). The ALJ must also build an “accurate and logical bridge” from evidence to conclusion. Thomas v. Colvin, 745 F.3d 802, 806 (7th Cir. 2014). Here, the ALJ mentions the tear of the supraspinatus, but fails to assess the impact of this severe tear upon Plaintiff's RFC. (R. at 23). This does not meet the requirement of providing a “logical bridge” as required to follow the ALJ's analysis.

         Further, the ALJ notes that while there is “no evidence of the claimant undergoing right shoulder surgery . . . lack of complaints related to right shoulder pain since . . . June 2014 suggests that any surgical intervention was successful.” Id. This statement implies that the ALJ considered a possibility that surgical intervention took place without any underlying evidence of such surgery. The ALJ is not permitted to “cherry-pick facts that support a finding of non-disability while ignoring evidence that points to a disability finding.” Denton v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 419, 425 (7th Cir. 2010). Implying that a lack of further complaints suggests that successful surgical intervention may have taken place is a step beyond the cherry-picking of certain facts in evidence forbidden by Denton and ...


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