United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
ORDER AFFIRMING THE FINAL ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION OF
PAMELA PEPPER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Veronica Barrera seeks judicial review of a final decision of
defendant Nancy Berryhill, 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.
plaintiff contends that the ALJ's decision should be
reversed because (1) it is not supported by substantial
evidence; (2) the ALJ erred by affording little weight to
certain opinions offered by one of the plaintiff's
treating physicians; and (3) the ALJ incorrectly found that
that the plaintiff's testimony was not entirely credible
as to the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of her
impairments. 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 affirms
the Commissioner's decision.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
the Appeals Council denies a claimant's request for
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 of an ALJ's
decision 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
district court must affirm the ALJ's decision to deny the
application for benefits. Elder v. Astrue, 529 F.3d
408, 413 (7th Cir. 2008).
district court must review the entire record, including 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. “While
judicial review is deferential, it is not abject . . .
.” Parker v. Astrue, 597 F.3d 920, 921 (7th
Cir. 2010). The court will not affirm “an
administrative decision that fails to mention highly
pertinent evidence, or that because of contradictions or
missing premises fails to build a logical bridge between the
facts of the case and the outcome.” Id.
(internal citations omitted). 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.
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
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
Id. at 23.
evaluating a claim for disability benefits, the ALJ follows a
five-step, sequential process, asking:
(1) Has the claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity
since her alleged onset of disability?
(2) If not, does she suffer from a severe, medically
(3) If so, does that impairment meet or equal any impairment
listed in SSA regulations as ...