United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division, Lafayette
OPINION AND ORDER
S. VAN BOKKELEN, JUDGE.
Kathleen R. seeks judicial review of the Social Security
Commissioner's decision denying her claim for disability
insurance benefits and asks this Court to remand the case.
For the reasons below, the Court reverses the decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security.
applied for disability insurance benefits under Title II. In
her application, Plaintiff alleged that she became disabled
on August 1, 2015. After a video hearing on August 8, 2017,
an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that
Plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments of
fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis of the knees, degenerative disc
disease of the spine, hypertension, asthma, obesity, and
affective disorders including depression, generalized anxiety
disorder, and panic disorder. (AR 14). The ALJ found that
Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work. (AR
23). However, the ALJ did find that jobs exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform.
(AR 23). Therefore, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled from
August 1, 2015, through October 26, 2017, the date of the
ALJ's decision. (AR 24). The ALJ's decision became
the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review.
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).
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).
argues that the ALJ erred by assigning only little weight to
the opinion of consultative examiner Dr. Conrardy. Plaintiff
notes that Dr. Conrardy's opinion would limit Plaintiff
to sedentary work, which, due to Plaintiff's age, would
mandate a finding of disability.
an ALJ need only “minimally articulate” her
reasons for discounting a medical opinion, Elder v.
Astrue, 529 F.3d 408, 416 (7th Cir. 2008), she must
provide “specific, legitimate reasons constituting good
cause” before rejecting the opinion. Knight v.
Chater, 55 F.3d 309, 313 (7th Cir. 1995). An ALJ may,
for instance, discount an opinion that lacks medical findings
to corroborate such allegations, Elder v. Astrue,
529 F.3d 408, 416 (7th Cir. 2008), especially if the opinion
appears to be based solely on the plaintiff's
“subjective complaints.” Rice v.
Barnhart, 384 F.3d 363, 371 (7th Cir. 2004).
stated that Dr. Conrardy's opinion appeared to be based
on Plaintiff's subjective complaints and report to the
examiner. The ALJ further noted that the clinical evaluation
revealed that Plaintiff walked with a normal gait and did not
use any cane or assistive device, strength was 5/5 in
Plaintiff's extremities, sensory was grossly intact to
touch but there was occasional numbness in the left leg, and
Plaintiff had full range of motion of the spine and extremity
joints. (AR 20 (citing AR 339)). Plaintiff identifies that