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Cynthia B. v. Saul

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

September 23, 2019

Cynthia B., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Cynthia B. 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 decision.

         A. Overview of the Case

         Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits under Title II. In her application, Plaintiff alleged that she became disabled on January 1, 2012. (R. at 13.) After a video hearing in 2015, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that Plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments of obesity, asthma, and heart failure. (R. at 15.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of performing her past relevant work as a retail clerk. (R. at 20.) Therefore, the ALJ found her to be not disabled from July 1, 2012, the alleged onset date, through the date of the decision. (Id.) This decision became final when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review. (R. at 1.)

         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, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (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 contends that the ALJ committed four reversible errors: the ALJ failed to analyze Plaintiff’s heart disease under the proper listing; the ALJ erred in the subjective symptom analysis; the ALJ failed to analyze Plaintiff’s impairments in combination; and the ALJ erred in the RFC determination in failing to consider the grid rules.

         (1) Grid Rules

         As an initial matter, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ should have found her to be disabled, as her RFC would lead to a finding of not disabled using the grid rules. However, the ALJ did not need to turn to the grid, as the ALJ found Plaintiff was not disabled at step four in finding that she could perform past relevant work. Townsend v. Barnhart, 28 F.3d Appx. 531, 539 (7th Cir. 2002). Since this case is being remanded for further consideration in ...


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