United States District Court, N.D. Indiana
OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM C. LEE, JUDGE
has appealed from a final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying his
application under the Social Security Act (the
“Act”) for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). (DE 1). The appeal was referred to
Magistrate Judge Susan Collins on January 15, 2019, pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 72(b), and Northern District of Indiana Local Rule
72-1, for the issuance of a Report and Recommendation. (DE
considering the case, on May 30, 2019 Magistrate Judge
Collins issued a Recommendation that the Commissioner's
decision be affirmed. Plaintiff filed an objection to
Magistrate Judge Collins' Report and Recommendation on
June 14, 2019, to which the Commissioner responded on June
objection, Plaintiff argues that Magistrate Judge Collins
erroneously found that the ALJ properly addressed
Plaintiff's physical impairments. Plaintiff argues that
the ALJ provided an RFC that was based entirely upon his lay
review of the medical record and failed to properly account
for Plaintiff's physical impairments. Magistrate Judge
Collins concluded that “the ALJ acknowledged that
[Plaintiff] had some difficulty ambulating, ” and thus,
the ALJ's decision concerning his ambulation is supported
by substantial evidence. (MJ's R&R at 8). Plaintiff
contends that the issue here is that the ALJ is not qualified
to interpret medical findings into specific limitations
without some kind of medical expert support, particularly
when the ALJ is contradicting the opinion of an examining
expert. Plaintiff also claims that the Magistrate Judge also
never addressed the crux of Plaintiff's treating opinion
argument: that the ALJ cherry-picked the record and falsely
asserted that Dr. Kelly “does not cite to any specific
clinical findings to support his extreme limitations”.
(MJ's R&R at 8).
Magistrate Judge also found that the ALJ sufficiently
accounted for Plaintiff's seizures. (MJ's R&R at
20). However, Plaintiff argues that the Magistrate
Judge's conclusion that “some support” in the
record is enough to support the ALJ's subjective symptom
analysis illustrates that the evidence was less than
substantial in supporting the ALJ's decision.
review, the record shows that substantial evidence supports
the ALJ's RFC finding. Although Plaintiff argues that the
ALJ erred by assessing a RFC finding that was “less
restrictive than [the opinion of the] State agency reviewers,
contrary to a treating opinion, and without any medical
support” (Pl.'s Obj. at 2), it is clear that the
ALJ discussed the relevant evidence and provided a reasonable
basis for the RFC finding (Tr. 36-38).
asserts that the ALJ “is not qualified to interpret
medical findings into specific limitations” (Pl.'s
Obj. at 2-3). However, as “the Seventh Circuit and this
Court have repeatedly recognized, an ALJ is not required to
rely entirely on a particular physician's opinion, nor
must the ALJ choose between the opinions of any of the
claimant's physicians” when assessing a
claimant's RFC. Music v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., No. 3:18-cv-00006-MGG, 2019 WL 1236842, at *3 (N.
D. Ind. Mar. 18, 2019) (citing Schmidt v. Astrue,
496 F.3d 833, 845 (7th Cir. 2007)); Hannah-Walker v.
Colvin, No. 2:12-CV-61-PRC, 2013 WL 5320664, at *10
(N.D. Ind. Sept. 23, 2013)). “[T]he determination of
[Plaintiff's] RFC is a matter for the ALJ alone - not a
treating or examining doctor - to decide.” Thomas
v. Colvin, 745 F.3d 802, 808 (7th Cir. 2014) (internal
citation omitted); see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1546(c),
416.946(c) (the ALJ is responsible for assessing a
present case, the ALJ explained that the State agency medical
consultant determined that Plaintiff could do light work with
seizure precautions (Tr. 38, 116-18). The ALJ gave
considerable weight to that opinion (Tr. 38). However, the
ALJ found Plaintiff more restricted - not less, as Plaintiff
argues (Tr. 38). Given the evidence of a waddling gait and
limping, the ALJ further restricted Plaintiff to
standing/walking for no more than two of eight hours in the
workday (Tr. 38, 404).
the ALJ considered Dr. Kelly's opinion, but appropriately
gave it limited weight because it contains “extreme
limitations” that he found were “unsupported by
the objective medical evidence of record” (Tr. 37-38).
The ALJ did not, as Plaintiff asserts, “cherry pick the
record” for evidence that supported his conclusion
while ignoring unfavorable evidence (Tr. 36-38). To the
contrary, the ALJ explained the evidentiary basis for his
assessment of Dr. Kelly's opinion, including other
medical evidence showing that Plaintiff had a normal range of
motion, normal strength (5/5), and intact sensory/motor
functions (Tr. 38, 364-65; R&R at 15-16). The ALJ also
cited non-medical evidence demonstrating that Plaintiff had
some restrictions, but he was not as limited as Dr.
Kelly's opinion suggests (Tr. 36, 38). The ALJ
appropriately weighed the evidence and reasonably accorded
little weight to Dr. Kelly's opinion (Tr. 37-38). Thus,
substantial evidence supports the ALJ's evaluation of Dr.
Kelly's opinion (R&R at 14-16; Tr. 37-38).
argues that his case should be remanded because the ALJ
“fail[ed] to confront” evidence from Dr. Kelly
indicating skull fractures from a fall (Pl.'s Obj. at 3).
Magistrate Judge Collins considered - and rejected - this
argument when evaluating the ALJ's findings at step three
of the sequential evaluation process (R&R at 12). As
noted in the R&R, neither Plaintiff nor Dr. Kelly
provided evidence indicating that Plaintiff met or equaled
all of the criteria of Listing 11.18B (R&R at 12).
Plaintiff does not argue that Magistrate Judge Collins was
incorrect with regard to this finding. It was Plaintiff's
burden to demonstrate that he met all of the criteria of the
listing, but he has not done so here (R&R at 12). 20
C.F.R. §§404.1520, 416.920; 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404,
Subpt. P, App. 1; see also Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987).
also challenges Magistrate Judge Collins's finding that
substantial evidence supports the ALJ's analysis of
Plaintiff's seizures. Noting that substantial evidence is
a term of art in administrative law, the Supreme Court
recently emphasized that “whatever the meaning of
‘substantial' in other contexts, the threshold for
such evidentiary sufficiency is not high.” Biestek
v. Berryhill, 139 S.Ct. 1148, 1154 (2019). Here, the
ALJ's decision contains substantial evidence supporting
the finding that Plaintiff's seizure disorder is not as
limiting as he suggests (Tr. 36-37). Magistrate Judge Collins
considered Plaintiff's argument to the contrary, but
found that the records Plaintiff relied upon “do not
support his portrayal of the evidence” (R&R at 20).
next argues that Magistrate Judge Collins “never
confronts [his] argument that the ALJ misstated the level of
exertion involved in daily activities” (Pl.'s Obj.
at 3). However, the R&R clearly addressed the argument
(R&R at 18). As Magistrate Judge Collins indicated, the
ALJ's decision accurately summarized Plaintiff's
daily activities (R&R at 18). The ALJ, did not, as
Plaintiff argues, give “undue weight” to his
activities of daily living (Tr. 36, 38). Magistrate Judge
Collins concluded that the ALJ's finding that Plaintiff
“‘remains quite functional' and has ‘an
active and functional lifestyle' is supported by the
record” (R&R at 18). Plaintiff has failed to show
that any of the Magistrate Judge's findings were
basis of the foregoing, the Court hereby ADOPTS the Report
and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Collins, and hereby
AFFIRMS the ...