United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
Brianna N. D., Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael G. Gotsch, Sr. United States Magistrate Judge
Brianna N. D. (“Ms. D.”) seeks judicial review of
the Social Security Commissioner's decision denying her
applications, dated June 11 and 30, 2015, for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI
of the Social Security Act respectively. This Court may enter
a ruling in this matter based on parties' consent
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). For the reasons discussed below, the Court
AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner of
the Social Security Administration (“SSA”).
Overview of the Case
was 21 years old on August 13, 2013, the date she alleges she
became disabled as the result of an injury to her left knee,
history of a stroke (age two), bradycardia, left upper
extremity numbness, and asthma. Following her alleged onset
date, Ms. D. worked as a hydrostatic tester, a job she
performed at semi-skilled medium exertion, from June 2016
through February 2017, which was substantial gainful
activity. Ms. D. fell on a wet floor at Dollar General in
August 2013, causing her chronic left knee pain. Ms. D. also
complained of lower back pain and bilateral foot pain.
December 27, 2017, an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) found Ms. D. not to be disabled as
defined by the Social Security Act (“Act”) and
denied her requested DIB and SSI. On July 27, 2018, the
Appeals Council denied Ms. D.'s timely request for
review, making the ALJ's December 2017 decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. See Fast v. Barnhart,
397 F.3d 468, 470 (7th Cir. 2005). Now ripe before this Court
is Ms. D.'s complaint for judicial review of the
Commissioner's unfavorable decision under 42 U.S.C.
order to qualify for DIB or SSI, a claimant must be
“disabled” under Sections 216(i), 223(d), and
1614(a)(3)(A) of the Act. A person is disabled under the Act
if “he or she has an inability to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
Commissioner's five-step inquiry in evaluating claims for
disability benefits under the Act includes determinations as
to: (1) whether the claimant is doing substantial gainful
activity (“SGA”); (2) whether the claimant's
impairments are severe; (3) whether any of the claimant's
impairments, alone or in combination, meet or equal one of
the Listings in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Part 404; (4)
whether the claimant can perform her past relevant work based
upon her residual functional capacity (“RFC”);
and (5) whether the claimant is capable of making an
adjustment to other work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520;
416.920; see also 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).
Standard of Review
Court has authority to review a disability decision by the
Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). However,
this Court's role in reviewing Social Security cases is
limited. Elder v. Astrue, 529 F.3d 408, 413 (7th
Cir. 2008). A court reviews the entire administrative record,
but does not reconsider facts, re-weigh the evidence, resolve
conflicts of evidence, decide questions of credibility, or
substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. Boiles v.
Barnhart, 395 F.3d 421, 425 (7th Cir. 2005). The Court
must give deference to the ALJ's decision so long as it
is supported by substantial evidence. Thomas v.
Colvin, 745 F.3d 802, 806 (7th Cir. 2014) (citing
Similia v. Astrue, 573 F.3d 503, 513 (7th Cir.
2009)). The deference for the ALJ's decision is lessened
where the ALJ's findings contain errors of fact or logic
or fail to apply the correct legal standard. Schomas v.
Colvin, 732 F.3d 702, 709 (7th Cir. 2013).
an ALJ's decision cannot be affirmed if it lacks
evidentiary support or an inadequate discussion of the
issues. Lopez v. Barnhart, 336 F.3d 535, 539 (7th
Cir. 2003). An ALJ's decision will lack sufficient
evidentiary support and require remand if it is clear that
the ALJ “cherry-picked” the record to support a
finding of non-disability. Denton v. Astrue, 596
F.3d 419, 425 (7th Cir. 2010); see also Wilson v.
Colvin, 48 F.Supp.3d 1140, 1147 (N.D. Ill. 2014). At a
minimum, an ALJ must articulate his analysis of the record to
allow the reviewing court to trace the path of his reasoning
and to be assured the ALJ has considered the important
evidence in the record. Scott v. Barnhart, 297 F.3d
589, 595 (7th Cir. 2002). While the ALJ need not specifically
address every piece of evidence in the record to present the
requisite “logical bridge” from the evidence to
his conclusions, the ALJ must at least provide a glimpse into
the reasoning behind his analysis and the decision to deny
benefits. O'Connor-Spinner v. Astrue, 627 F.3d
614, 618 (7th Cir. 2010); see also Minnick v.
Colvin, 775 F.3d 929, 935 (7th Cir. 2015).
the question upon judicial review is not whether the claimant
is, in fact, disabled, but whether the ALJ used “the
correct legal standards and the decision [was] supported by
substantial evidence.” Roddy v. Astrue, 705
F.3d 631, 636 (7th Cir. 2007). Substantial 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). Thus, substantial evidence is
simply “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971);
Summers v. Berryhill, 864 F.3d 523, 526 (7th Cir.
challenges the ALJ's RFC determination alleging errors of
law and lack of the necessary logical bridge from the
evidence to the RFC. The ALJ defined Ms. ...