United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
HOLLY A. BRADY UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Debra Lynn McMillan seeks review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying
her application for Social Security Disability Insurance
Benefits. Plaintiff alleges that she has been disabled, and
unable to work, since September 2014 due to neck, shoulder,
and back pain. After a hearing, an administrative law judge
(ALJ) concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. For reasons
set forth in this Opinion, the Court affirms the ALJ's
February 2015, Plaintiff filed an application for Disability
Insurance Benefits, asserting that she was unable to work due
to arthritis, osteoarthritis, depression, anxiety,
degenerative disc disease, and neck fusion. The claim was
denied initially in May 2015, and upon reconsideration in
requested a hearing before an ALJ. See 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(b)(1). Following the five-step process that an ALJ
conducts when deciding whether to grant or deny benefits,
see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520; Zurawski v.
Halter, 245 F.3d 881, 885 (7th Cir. 2001), the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. She found that
Plaintiff had satisfied the first two steps because she had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged
onset date (step 1), and her degenerative disc disease,
degenerative joint disease, sleep apnea, morbid obesity, and
carpal tunnel syndrome were severe impairments (step 2).
Because Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal any
of those listed in the regulations (step 3), the ALJ
evaluated Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (RFC)
and concluded that Plaintiff could perform light work as
defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b) if she also had an
option for sitting, standing, and walking. Additionally, the
ALJ limited Plaintiff to occasional bending, pushing, pulling
and reaching overhead with the right extremity. Plaintiff
could handle and finger frequently. With this RFC, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff, although she had no past relevant
work (step 4), could perform other jobs that existed in
significant numbers in the national economy (step 5).
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review,
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. Plaintiff filed an appeal to this Court on
April 29, 2018. Plaintiff has submitted one issue for review.
She argues that the ALJ erred when she did not incorporate
limitations from upper extremity impairments into the RFC.
Defendant, in response, argues that Plaintiff's claim is
without merit, as the ALJ included limitations related to
Plaintiff's upper extremity into the RFC, and the
decision is supported by substantial evidence.
person suffering from a disability that renders him unable to
work may apply to the Social Security Administration for
disability benefits. See 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A) (defining disability as the “inability to
engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any
medically determinable physical or mental impairment which
can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can
be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
12 months”). To be found disabled, a claimant must
demonstrate that his physical or mental limitations prevent
him from doing not only his previous work, but also any other
kind of gainful employment that exists in the national
economy, considering his age, education, and work experience.
claimant who is found to be “not disabled” may
challenge the Commissioner's final decision in federal
court. This Court must affirm the ALJ's decision if it is
supported by substantial evidence and free from legal error.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Steele v. Barnhart, 290
F.3d 936, 940 (7th Cir. 2002). In determining whether there
is substantial evidence, the Court reviews the entire record.
Kepple v. Massanari, 268 F.3d 513, 516 (7th Cir.
2001). However, review is deferential. Skinner v.
Astrue, 478 F.3d 836, 841 (7th Cir. 2007). A reviewing
court will not “reweigh evidence, resolve conflicts,
decide questions of credibility, or substitute [its] own
judgment for that of the Commissioner.” Lopez v.
Barnhart, 336 F.3d 535, 539 (7th Cir. 2003) (quoting
Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 869 (7th Cir.
if, after a “critical review of the evidence, ”
the ALJ's decision “lacks evidentiary support or an
adequate discussion of the issues, ” this Court will
not affirm it. Lopez, 336 F.3d at 539 (citations
omitted). While the ALJ need not discuss every piece of
evidence in the record, he “must build an accurate and
logical bridge from the evidence to [the] conclusion.”
Dixon v. Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1176 (7th Cir.
2001). Further, the ALJ “may not select and discuss
only that evidence that favors his ultimate conclusion,
” Diaz, 55 F.3d at 308, but “must
confront the evidence that does not support his conclusion
and explain why it was rejected, ” Indoranto v.
Barnhart, 374 F.3d 470, 474 (7th Cir. 2004).
ALJ, arriving at the RFC, explained that “[d]ue to the
degenerative changes in her neck, back, and shoulders, sleep
apnea, obesity, and bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome combined
with her subjective complaints of pain and fatigue,
[Plaintiff] is reasonably limited to light work with
additional postural and manipulative limitations.” (R
19.) Therefore, in addition to limiting Plaintiff to light
work, the ALJ also found that Plaintiff required the option
to sit, stand, or walk. She was also limited to occasional
bending, pushing, pulling and reaching overhead with the
asserts that the ALJ's RFC assessment was deficient
because it did not include any “head/neck movement
limitations related to rotation, flexion and
extension.” (Pl.'s Br. 12, ECF No. 17.) According
to Plaintiff, objective medical evidence, in addition to the
consultative examiner's opinion, required that the ALJ
include a limitation to address the restrictions in
Plaintiff's range of motion.
measures what work-related activities a claimant can perform
despite her limitations. Young v. Barnhart, 362 F.3d
995, 1000 (7th Cir. 2004). It is the most the claimant can
still do. Craft v. Astrue, 539 F.3d 668, 675-76 (7th
Cir. 2008) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1)). A
claimant's RFC must be based upon the medical evidence in
the record and other evidence, such as testimony by the
claimant or her friends and family. 20 C.F.R. §