United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
BRIAN K. SEIGFREID, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge.
an action for judicial review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff Brian K.
Seigfreid's applications for Disability Insurance
Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under
Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Plaintiff alleges that the Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) erred in his assessment of the evidence and that
his decision is not supported by substantial evidence. For
the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision
will be affirmed.
August 30, 2012, Plaintiff, then age 45, filed an application
for DIB and SSI with an alleged onset date of January 10,
2010, due to depression, headaches, right arm issues, and
fibromyalgia. R. 279-81, 329. The Social Security
Administration (SSA) denied the applications initially on
January 7, 2013, and upon reconsideration on August 12, 2013.
R. 152, 168. After his application and request for
reconsideration were denied, Plaintiff requested an
administrative hearing. ALJ Barry Robinson held a hearing on
February 9, 2015. Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel,
and a vocational expert both testified. R. 44-77.
hearing, Plaintiff testified that he had completed the ninth
grade before dropping out of school due to the break-up of
his family and related issues. R. 49. As an adult, he
testified that he had worked in construction and related
fields. He had last worked for Select Plastering, where he
plastered the inside and outside of buildings for over five
years. R. 49-50. Before that, he restored buildings that had
been damaged by fire or water. R. 51.
asked what physical conditions limited his ability to work,
Plaintiff responded his back, neck, legs, buttocks, right
arm, and hands. R. 52. He had previously injured his right
wrist while working for Select Plastering. R. 404. He had
radial tunnel and carpal tunnel surgery performed on that
wrist on January 10, 2013. R. 1092-95. At the hearing, he
testified that his arm was still sore and that he could only
use it for about two to three hours a day before he could not
move or bend it anymore. R. 53. He also testified he had been
diagnosed with fibromyalgia, which caused him pain in his
back, neck, and legs, and made sitting difficult.
Id. He elaborated that even alternating between
sitting and standing was too difficult for him to maintain
over an eight-hour work day. R. 57. He had received steroid
injections for the back pain but was not experiencing relief
from the pain. R. 56. He also explained that he had been
diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression. R. 54-55. In
addition to his diagnoses, Plaintiff testified that he had
concentration problems for the past five or so years. R. 62.
testified that he lived in a two-story, four-bedroom home. R.
55. He explained that he did not use three of the bedrooms
and that generally he cared for the house, but occasionally
his mother would provide assistance. R. 55-56. In his free
time, he testified he would watch TV, “monkey around
out in the garage, ” sell his fishing gear online, and
get together with friends and family about once a month. R.
56, 58-59. He also explained that he hadn't fished in six
months because he couldn't alternate between standing and
sitting for that long of a period. R. 58. And when he did
fish, he had to cast with his left-arm because it was too
painful to use his right hand, even though he is right-hand
dominant. R. 59.
documentation in the administrative record, beginning in June
2009, revealed that Plaintiff injured his right wrist and
elbow while setting up scaffolding at work. R. 404. Dr. Jon
Cherney treated him for his injury and cleared him to return
to work at a medium-exertion level. On April 27, 2010, Dr.
Cherney declared that Plaintiff's elbow was 4%
permanently partially disabled and that he should have a
permanent work restriction of medium-exertion level work. R.
401, 413. In August 2011, Dr. Jagdeep Sodhi began treating
Plaintiff for right wrist and forearm pain. R. 525-27. By
July 2012, Dr. Sodhi had diagnosed Plaintiff with right
radial tunnel syndrome, right lateral epicondylitis, and
chronic right carpal tunnel syndrome. R. 516. After
conservative treatment failed to provide relief, Dr. Sodhi
performed radial tunnel and carpal tunnel release surgery in
January 2013. R. 1092-95. Plaintiff completed physical
therapy and by June 2013, he reported to Dr. Sodhi that his
forearm and elbow pain had been completely resolved. R. 827.
receiving physical therapy for his elbow and forearm,
Plaintiff began complaining of pain in his right shoulder. R.
763, 765-66. Dr. Sodhi ordered physical therapy for his
shoulder as well. Upon completion of physical therapy,
Plaintiff had reported his shoulder had improved 80% and he
had returned to household chores, like lifting laundry
baskets, and throwing a ball with his kids. R. 830, 880-81.
His medical records also revealed that in April 2011, Dr.
Marlon Hermitanio diagnosed Plaintiff's diffuse pain to
be chronic pain syndrome from fibromyalgia for which his
headaches are a pain generator. R. 424-27.
decision dated June 11, 2015, the ALJ found Plaintiff was not
disabled. R. 36. Following the SSA's five-step process,
the ALJ concluded at step one that Plaintiff met the insured
status requirements through December 13, 2015, and had not
been engaged in substantial gainful activity for a continuous
12-month period since May 1, 2010. R. 25-26. At step two, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff's fibromyalgia, right arm carpal
tunnel syndrome, right shoulder degenerative joint disease,
and major depressive disorder all constituted severe
impairments. R. 26. The ALJ found that the complete medical
record indicated that Plaintiff also suffered from mild
arthritis of the bilateral hips, migraines, diverticulitis,
and memory problems, but concluded that these impairments
were nonsevere in that they were well-managed and caused no
more than minimal physical or mental limitations.
Id. At step three, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal
any of the listed impairments under 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1.
then determined Plaintiff had the following residual
functional capacity (RFC):
[Plaintiff has the ability to] perform light work as defined
in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except the claimant
is limited to frequent overhead reaching with his right upper
extremity and frequent handling and fingering with his right
hand. The claimant can perform simple, routine and repetitive
tasks in a work environment that involves simple,
work-related decisions with few, if any, work place changes.
The claimant requires a job where there is only occasional
interaction with co-workers, supervisors, and the public and
where interaction with the public is not a primary component
of the job.
R. 29. Based on the testimony offered by the vocational
expert at the hearing, the ALJ determined at step four that
considering his age, education, and work experience,
Plaintiff would not be able to return to his past work. R.
34. The ALJ concluded at step five, again based on the
testimony of the vocational expert, that there were jobs that
existed in significant numbers in the national economy that
Plaintiff could perform, such as garment folder, photocopy
machine operator, and ironer. R. 35. Based on these findings,
the ALJ determined Plaintiff was not disabled. The ALJ's
decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review
on October 24, 2016. R. 1.
Commissioner's final decision will be upheld if the ALJ
applied the correct legal standards and supported his
decision with substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Jelinek v. Astrue, 662 F.3d 805, 811 (7th Cir.
2011). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind could accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Schaaf v. Astrue, 602 F.3d 869,
874 (7th Cir. 2010). Although a decision denying benefits
need not discuss every piece of evidence, remand is
appropriate when an ALJ fails to provide adequate support for
the conclusions drawn. Jelinek, 662 F.3d at 811. The
ALJ must provide a “logical bridge” between the
evidence and his conclusions. Clifford v. Apfel, 227
F.3d 863, 872 (7th Cir. 2000).
is also expected to follow the SSA's rulings and
regulations in making a determination. Failure to do so,
unless the error is harmless, requires reversal.
Prochaska v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 731, 736-37 (7th
Cir. 2006). In reviewing the entire record, the court does
not substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner by
reconsidering facts, reweighing evidence, resolving conflicts
in evidence, or deciding questions of credibility. Estok
v. Apfel, 152 F.3d 636, 638 (7th Cir. 1998). Finally,
judicial review is limited to the rationales offered by the
ALJ. Shauger v. ...