United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
A. BRADY JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Sabrina
Smith's Brief in Support of Plaintiff's Complaint to
Review Decision of Commissioner of Social Security
Administration (ECF No. 20), filed on March 12, 2019.
Defendant Andrew Saul, Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (the “Commissioner”), filed his
Memorandum in Support of Commissioner's Decision (ECF No.
21) on April 19, 2019. Smith filed her Reply Brief (ECF No.
23) on May 17, 2019. This matter is now ripe for review.
March 30, 2015, Smith filed an application for supplemental
security income under title XVI of the Social Security Act.
The claim was denied initially on July 15, 2015, and again on
reconsideration on October 14, 2015. On May 16, 2017, Smith
appeared in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for a hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”). The ALJ issued
his decision on September 18, 2017, finding that Smith was
not disabled (the “Decision”).
filed her Request for Review of Hearing Decision/Order on
September 22, 2017. The Appeals Council denied her Request
for Review on July 9, 2018. Smith then sought judicial review
with this Court.
Standard of Review
claimant who is found to be “not disabled” may
challenge the Commissioner's final decision in federal
court. This Court must affirm the ALJ's decision if it is
supported by substantial evidence and free from legal error.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Steele v. Barnhart, 290
F.3d 936, 940 (7th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is
“more than a mere scintilla of proof.” Kepple
v. Massanari, 268 F.3d 513, 516 (7th Cir. 2001). It
means “evidence a reasonable person would accept as
adequate to support the decision.” Murphy v.
Astrue, 496 F.3d 630, 633 (7th Cir. 2007); see also
Diaz v. Chater, 55 F.3d 300, 305 (7th Cir. 1995)
(substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.”) (citation and quotations omitted).
determining whether there is substantial evidence, the Court
reviews the entire record. Kepple, 268 F.3d at 516.
However, review is deferential. Skinner v. Astrue,
478 F.3d 836, 841 (7th Cir. 2007). A reviewing court will not
“reweigh evidence, resolve conflicts, decide questions
of credibility, or substitute [its] own judgment for that of
the Commissioner.” Lopez v. Barnhart, 336 F.3d
535, 539 (7th Cir. 2003) (quoting Clifford v. Apfel,
227 F.3d 863, 869 (7th Cir. 2000)).
if, after a “critical review of the evidence, ”
the ALJ's decision “lacks evidentiary support or an
adequate discussion of the issues, ” this Court will
not affirm it. Lopez, 336 F.3d at 539 (citations
omitted). While the ALJ need not discuss every piece of
evidence in the record, he “must build an accurate and
logical bridge from the evidence to [the] conclusion.”
Dixon v. Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1176
(7th Cir. 2001). Further, the ALJ “may not select and
discuss only that evidence that favors his ultimate
conclusion, ” Diaz, 55 F.3d at 308, but
“must confront the evidence that does not support his
conclusion and explain why it was rejected, ”
Indoranto v. Barnhart, 374 F.3d 470, 474 (7th Cir.
2004). Ultimately, the ALJ must “sufficiently
articulate his assessment of the evidence to assure”
the court that he “considered the important
evidence” and to enable the court “to trace the
path of [his] reasoning.” Carlson v. Shalala,
999 F.2d 180, 181 (7th Cir. 1993) (quoting Stephens v.
Heckler, 766 F.2d 284, 287 (7th Cir. 1985) (internal
quotation marks omitted)).
The ALJ's Decision
person suffering from a disability that renders her unable to
work may apply to the Social Security Administration for
disability benefits. See 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A) (defining disability as the “inability to
engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any
medically determinable physical or mental impairment which
can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can
be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
12 months”). To be found disabled, a claimant must
demonstrate that her physical or mental limitations prevent
her from doing not only her previous work, but also any other
kind of gainful employment that exists in the national
economy, considering her age, education, and work experience.
claimant's application is denied initially and on
reconsideration, he may request a hearing before an ALJ.
See 42 U.S.C. § 405(b)(1). An ALJ conducts a
five-step inquiry in deciding whether to grant or deny
benefits: (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 has
the residual functional capacity to perform his past relevant
work, and (5) whether the claimant is capable of performing
any work in the national economy. Zurawski v.
Halter, 245 F.3d 881, 885 (7th Cir. 2001).
one, the ALJ determined that Smith had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since March 30, 2015. At step
two, the ALJ determined that Smith had the following severe
impairments: degenerative joint disease, muscular tendinitis,
osteoarthritis, history of nephrolithiasis and kidney stones,
history of hyperthyroidism and Graves' disease,
hypoglycemia, obesity, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, ...