United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
DECISION AND ORDER
JOSEPH, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Napper seeks judicial review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying
her claim for a period of supplemental security income
(“SSI”) under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). For the reasons stated below, the
Commissioner's decision is affirmed.
previously received SSI from 2007 through 2009. (Pl.'s
Br. at 1, Docket # 14.) Napper's SSI benefits were
stopped because she received a medical settlement.
(Id.) After Napper spent down the settlement below
the asset limit for SSI, she filed a new application for SSI
on May 4, 2011 alleging onset of her disability as of
February 1, 2007. (Tr. 12.) Napper claims disability based on
bipolar disorder, learning disability, a broken hip, and
schizophrenia. (Tr. 307.) A hearing was held before an
Administrative Law Judge on February 4, 2015. (Tr. 37.)
Napper, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at the
hearing, as did Jacquelyn Wenkman, a vocational expert and
Dr. N. Timothy Lynch, an impartial medical expert.
written decision issued July 10, 2015, the ALJ found Napper
had the severe impairments of obesity, a hip impairment, a
knee impairment, a mood disorder, and antisocial personality
disorder. (Tr. 14.) The ALJ further found that Napper did not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R.
pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1 (the “Listings”). The
ALJ found Napper had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work, except she cannot
deal with the public, can have limited interaction (one to
three brief contacts per shift) with supervisors, cannot
perform work in cooperation or concert with co-workers, and
cannot perform jobs that require interaction with co-workers.
(Tr. 17.) The ALJ's decision became the
Commissioner's final decision when the Appeals Council
denied the plaintiff's request for review. Napper was
approved on April 24, 2017 on her subsequent re-application
for SSI benefits with an onset date of October 6, 2016.
(Pl.'s Reply Br. at 1, Docket # 18.) Thus, Napper
clarified that her appeal is only for the closed period of
Napper's alleged onset date of February 1, 2007 to
October 5, 2016. (Id.)
Applicable Legal Standards
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 not conclusive evidence; it is
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Schaaf
v. Astrue, 602 F.3d 869, 874 (7th Cir. 2010) (internal
quotation and citation omitted). 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 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. Astrue, 675 F.3d 690, 697 (7th Cir.
2012) (citing SEC v. Chenery Corp., 318 U.S. 80,
93-95 (1943); Campbell v. Astrue, 627 F.3d 299, 307
(7th Cir. 2010)).
Application to this Case
alleges that the ALJ erred in four ways. First, she argues
the ALJ improperly assessed her RFC by failing to account for
her variable functioning, her intellectual deficits, and her
deficiencies in concentration, persistence, or pace. Second,
Napper argues the ALJ failed to consider whether she met
Listing 12.05. Third, Napper argues the ALJ improperly
weighed the opinions of her treating medical providers,
specifically Dr. Eleasar San Agustin and Dr. Mariah Hewitt.
Finally, she argues the ALJ erred in finding her allegations
of disabling symptoms lacked credibility. I will address each
argument in turn.
argues the ALJ erred in determining her RFC in three ways.
First, she argues the ALJ failed to account for variable
functioning in the RFC assessment. Second, she argues the ALJ
failed to account for her intellectual deficits. And third,
she argues that although the ALJ found Napper had either mild
or moderate difficulties in maintaining concentration,
persistence, or pace, he did not properly account for that
limitation in the RFC.
the most the claimant can do in a work setting “despite
her limitations.” Young v. Barnhart, 362 F.3d
995, 1000-01 (7th Cir. 2004); see also 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1545(a)(1); SSR 96-8p. The Administration must
consider all of the claimant's known, medically
determinable impairments when assessing RFC. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1545(a)(2), (e). Napper argues the ALJ failed to account
for her variable functioning and cherry-picked the record.
Specifically, Napper argues the ALJ failed to acknowledge
evidence of her flat and restricted affect and monotonous
speech; the fact her treating provider recommended ...