United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
F. applied for social security disability insurance benefits
and supplemental security income, alleging that he is unable
to work primarily due to memory issues. Mr. F. filed this
appeal, asking the Court to reverse the ALJ’s decision
and remand for further proceedings based on alleged errors
with the residual functional capacity assessment. The
Commissioner filed a response in opposition. Mr. F. has not
filed a reply, and the time to do so has passed. The Court
finds that the ALJ’s decision is supported by
substantial evidence and affirms the decision.
February 23, 2015, Mr. F. suffered a stroke and was
hospitalized. Upon discharge on March 18, 2015, Mr. F. was
able to walk independently, had no agitation, and was
oriented to person and place, but he had no recall of current
events. Mr. F. participated in outpatient speech and language
therapy beginning on April 24, 2015. On June 19, 2015, Mr. F.
had an initial psychiatric assessment at Oaklawn Psychiatric
Center with Dr. Gegeshidze. On August 21, 2015, Mr. F. began
periodic outpatient psychiatric visits for medication
management with Dr. Gegeshidze, essentially every three
months. From his August 2015 visit with Gegeshidze to the
final visit on April 26, 2017, Mr. F.’s mental status
examinations were largely benign, noting limited insight and
judgment, but with a fairly good attention span, improved
memory skills but mildly impaired recent and remote memory, a
good mood and affect, and logical thinking. Mr. F. often
reported forgetfulness and getting frustrated when he could
not find things or when he forgot names or telephone numbers.
On September 22, 2015, Mr. F. began receiving occupational
therapy and physical therapy for balance, cognitive
functioning, and strength deficits. He was discharged from
physical therapy on October 27, 2015, with improved physical
functioning and from occupational therapy on November 24,
2015, with improved grip strength.
August 18, 2017, the ALJ held a hearing, and, on November 1,
2017, the ALJ issued a decision, finding that Mr. F. had the
severe impairments of history of thoracic spine compression
fracture, organic mental disorder, depression, bipolar
disorder, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder
(COPD)/Asthma. The ALJ made the following residual functional
After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that
the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform
medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c)
with additional nonexertional limitations. He can lift and
carry 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently; sit
for 6 hours, stand and/or walk for 6 hours, and push and/or
pull as much as can lift/carry. The claimant can frequently
climb ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes, or scaffolds and
frequently stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl. He can have
occasional exposure to unprotected heights; moving mechanical
parts; operation of a motor vehicle; dust, odors, fumes, and
other pulmonary irritants; extreme cold; or extreme heat. The
claimant is limited to performing simple, routine, and
repetitive tasks and making simple work-related decisions.
AR 16. The ALJ found that Mr. F. was not disabled and denied
his application for benefits. After the Appeals Council
declined review, Mr. F. filed this action seeking judicial
review of the Commissioner’s decision.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
the Appeals Council denied review, the Court evaluates the
ALJ’s decision as the final word of the Commissioner of
Social Security. Schomas v. Colvin, 732 F.3d 702,
707 (7th Cir. 2013). This Court will affirm the
Commissioner’s findings of fact and denial of benefits
if they are supported by substantial evidence. Craft v.
Astrue, 539 F.3d 668, 673 (7th Cir. 2008). Substantial
evidence consists of “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401 (1971). This evidence must be “more than a
scintilla but may be less than a preponderance.”
Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d 836, 841 (7th Cir.
2007). Even if “reasonable minds could differ”
about the disability status of the claimant, the Court must
affirm the Commissioner’s decision as long as it is
adequately supported. Elder v. Astrue, 529 F.3d 408,
413 (7th Cir. 2008).
has the duty to weigh the evidence, resolve material
conflicts, make independent findings of fact, and dispose of
the case accordingly. Perales, 402 U.S. at
399–400. In evaluating the ALJ’s decision, the
Court considers the entire administrative record but does not
reweigh evidence, resolve conflicts, decide questions of
credibility, or substitute the Court’s own judgment for
that of the Commissioner. Lopez ex rel. Lopez v.
Barnhart, 336 F.3d 535, 539 (7th Cir. 2003).
Nevertheless, the Court conducts a “critical review of
the evidence” before affirming the Commissioner’s
decision. Id. An ALJ must evaluate both the evidence
favoring the claimant as well as the evidence favoring the
claim’s rejection and may not ignore an entire line of
evidence that is contrary to his or her findings.
Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d 881, 887 (7th Cir.
2001). The ALJ must provide a “logical bridge”
between the evidence and the conclusions. Terry v.
Astrue, 580 F.3d 471, 475 (7th Cir. 2009).
STANDARD FOR DISABILITY
benefits are available only to those individuals who can
establish disability under the terms of the Social Security
Act. Estok v. Apfel, 152 F.3d 636, 638 (7th Cir.
1998). Specifically, the claimant must be unable “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.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The Social
Security regulations create a five-step process to determine
whether the claimant qualifies as disabled. 20 C.F.R.
416.920(a)(4)(i)–(v). The steps are to be used in the
1. Whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial