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Dietrich v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

March 30, 2016

KATHRYN DIETRICH, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Defendant.

ORDER VACATING THE FINAL ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER, AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

HON. PAMELA PEPPER United States District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Kathryn Dietrich seeks judicial review of a final decision of defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security, who found that she was not “disabled” within the meaning of the Social Security Act. The Social Security Administration’s Appeals Council denied review, making the administrative law judge’s (ALJ’s) decision the final decision of the Commissioner.

The plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred by failing to evaluate the plaintiff’s fibromyalgia and carpel tunnel syndrome, rendering an erroneous residual functional capacity determination, improperly evaluating the opinion evidence, making an adverse credibility determination, and failing to evaluate the appropriate listings in connection with the plaintiff’s conditions. The plaintiff asserts that this court should reverse the Commissioner’s decision and award her benefits, or remand the case to the ALJ for further proceedings. For the reasons stated below, the court will vacate the Commissioner’s decision and remand for further proceedings consistent with this order.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A. Judicial Review

When the Appeals Council denies a claimant’s request review, the ALJ’s decision constitutes the final decision of the Commissioner. Moore v. Colvin, 743 F.3d 1118, 1120 (7th Cir. 2014). Judicial review under §405(g) is limited; the district court will reverse only if the ALJ’s decision is not supported by substantial evidence, is based on legal error, or is so poorly articulated as to prevent meaningful review. Hopgood ex rel. L.G. v. Astrue, 578 F.3d 696, 698 (7th Cir. 2009). “An ALJ’s findings are supported by substantial evidence if the ALJ identifies supporting evidence in the record and builds a logical bridge from that evidence to the conclusion.” Id. (citation omitted). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Barnett v. Barnhart, 381 F.3d 664, 668 (7th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). If conflicting evidence in the record would allow reasonable minds to disagree about whether the claimant is disabled, the ALJ’s decision to deny the application for benefits must be affirmed. Elder v. Astrue, 529 F.3d 408, 413 (7th Cir. 2008).

The district court must review the entire record, including both the evidence that supports the ALJ’s conclusions as well as evidence that detracts from the ALJ’s conclusions, but it may not “displace the ALJ’s judgment by reconsidering facts or evidence, or by making independent credibility determinations.” Id.

In sum, the district court will uphold a decision so long as the record reasonably supports it and the ALJ explains his analysis of the evidence with enough detail and clarity to permit meaningful review. Eichstadt v. Astrue, 534 F.3d 663, 665-66 (7th Cir. 2008).

B. Disability Determination

The Social Security Administration provides “disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income to persons who have a ‘disability.’” Barnhart v. Thomas, 540 U.S. 20, 22 (2003) (citing 42 U.S.C. §§423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B)). To qualify as “disabled, ” the claimant must demonstrate a “physical or mental impairment or impairments . . . of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy.” Id. at 21-22. The Social Security Act further

defines “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.”

Id. at 23.

In evaluating a claim for disability benefits, the ALJ follows a five-step, ...


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