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Cynthia R. v. Saul

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

December 10, 2019

CYNTHIA R., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON PLAINTIFF'S BRIEF IN SUPPORT OF APPEAL

          Tim A. Baker United States Magistrate Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff appeals the Social Security Administration's denial of her application for disability insurance benefits. Plaintiff's sole argument on appeal is that the ALJ improperly rejected the opinion of a consultative examining physician. As explained below, the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence and provides a good explanation as to why the ALJ did not adapt a portion of that physician's functional limitation recommendations. Therefore, Plaintiff's request for remand should be denied.

         II. Background

         Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits. The Social Security Administration denied her claim initially and upon reconsideration. After a hearing, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled.

         The ALJ considered Plaintiff's claim for benefits according to 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a). First, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2017. Subsequently, at step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: osteoarthritis and allied disorders and organic mental disorder. The ALJ noted that these impairments significantly limit the ability to perform basic work activities as required by SSR 85-28.

         At step three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Before reaching step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b), except:

[Plaintiff] can lift twenty pounds occasionally and lift and carry ten pounds frequently. She can stand and/or walk six hours each and sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday. She can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She can occasionally balance on a level surface. She can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. Lastly, she can understand, remember, and carry out simple, routine, and repetitive tasks with little to no workplace changes.

[Filing No. 5-2, at ECF p. 28.]

         Next, at step four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff could perform past relevant work as a housekeeper/cleaner because this work does not require the performance of work-related activities that are precluded by Plaintiff's residual functional capacity. [Filing No. 5-2, at ECF p. 31.] The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled.

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiff broadly argues that the ALJ erred as a matter of law in determining that she is not entitled to Social Security benefits and that the ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial evidence. [Filing No. 8, at ECF p. 1.] The Court reviews the ALJ's decision to determine whether the factual findings in the decision are supported by substantial evidence. See, e.g., Biestek v. Berryhill, __ U.S. __, __, 139 S.Ct. 1148, 1153 (2019) (“On judicial review, an ALJ's factual findings . . . shall be conclusive if supported by substantial evidence.” (Internal quotation marks omitted). “The court is not to reweigh evidence, resolve conflicts, decide questions of credibility, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Where substantial evidence supports the ALJ's disability determination, we must affirm the decision even if reasonable minds could differ concerning whether the claimant is disabled.” Burmester v. Berryhill, 920 F.3d 507, 510 (7th Cir. 2019) (internal citations, quotation marks, and brackets omitted).

         Specifically, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ improperly rejected the opinion of examining physician Gregory M. French, MD. [Filing No. 8, at ECF p. 6.] Plaintiff notes that Dr. French opined that Plaintiff could sit for 30 minutes, stand for 15 minutes, and walk for 15 minutes at one time without interruption and could sit, stand, or walk for a total of two hours each in an eight-hour workday. [Filing No. 8, at ECF P. 7.] The ALJ, by contrast, concluded that ...


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