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Thomas T. v. Saul

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

October 22, 2019

Thomas T., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Thomas T. 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 affirms the Administrative Law Judge's decision.

         A. Overview of the Case

         Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits under Titles II and XVI. In his application, Plaintiff alleged that he became disabled on December 10, 2007. (R. at 12.) Plaintiff later amended the alleged onset date of disability to May 19, 2011. (R. at 12.) After a video hearing in 2017, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that Plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments of degenerative disc disease, major depressive disorder, and obesity. (R. at 14.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work. (R. at 23.) The ALJ did, however, find that a number of jobs existed which Plaintiff could perform. (R. at 23- 24.) Therefore, the ALJ found him to be not disabled from December 10, 2007, through the date of the decision. (R at 24.) 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 account for Plaintiff's moderate limitations in concentrating, persisting, and maintaining pace; the ALJ failed to include any limitations regarding reaching overhead or bilaterally in the RFC; the ALJ failed to properly weigh the opinion of Plaintiff's treating psychiatrist; and the ALJ erred in finding that Plaintiff failed to meet Listing 12.04.

         (1) Concentrating, Persisting, and Maintaining Pace

         Plaintiff first asserts that the ALJ failed to accommodate his moderate limitations in concentrating, persisting, and maintaining pace in the RFC. At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had moderate limitations in concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace. (R. at 17.) The ALJ noted that Plaintiff testified to racing thoughts and a poor ability to concentrate. (Id.) Moreover, Plaintiff's therapist opined that he had a marked limitation in concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace. (Id.) However, the ALJ gave this therapist's opinion little weight. (R. at 21.) The ALJ also noted that other treatment records indicated his ability to concentrate was intact. (R. at 17.) The ALJ then limited Plaintiff to “performing simple, routine ...


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