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Hortansia L. v. Saul

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

December 19, 2019

HORTANSIA L. Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Plaintiff Hortansia L. 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.

         OVERVIEW OF THE CASE

         Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits under Titles II and XVI. In her application, Plaintiff alleged that she became disabled on December 14, 2009. (R. at 24.) After a hearing in 2015, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that Plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments of fibromyalgia, obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), asthma, bipolar I disorder, depression, mood disorder, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and attention deficit disorder. (R. at 26.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work. (R. at 36.) The ALJ did, however, find that a number of jobs existed which Plaintiff could perform. (R. at 36-37.) Therefore, the ALJ found her to be not disabled from December 14, 2009, the alleged onset date. (R at 37.) Judge Theresa Springmann remanded the decision on November 29, 2017. (R. at 796.) The Court instructed the ALJ to explore the reasons behind Plaintiff's perceived lack of medical treatment on remand. (R. at 794.)

         A second hearing was held in September 2018. After the 2018 hearing, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments of fibromyalgia, myalgias/arthralgias, obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, bipolar I disorder, depressive disorder, mood disorder, anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). (R. at 667.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work. (R. at 683.) The ALJ did, however, find that a number of jobs existed which plaintiff could perform. (R. at 684.) Therefore, the ALJ found her to be not disabled from December 14, 2009, the alleged onset date. (R at 685.) This decision became final when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (R. at 1.)

         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 (1971).

         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).

         ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff contends that the ALJ committed two reversible errors: the ALJ failed to accommodate Plaintiff's moderate limitations in concentrating, persisting, and maintaining pace, and the ALJ failed to consider that Plaintiff's failure to pursue medical treatment may be a symptom of her mental illness.

         A. Concentrating, Persisting, ...


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