United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
DECISION AND ORDER
JOSEPH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Norek seeks judicial review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying
her claim for a period of disability and disability insurance
benefits under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). Since filing this lawsuit, the Social Security
Administration found Norek disabled as of December 7, 2016.
Thus, Norek requests review of a closed period between her
alleged onset date of September 29, 2012 to December 6, 2016.
For the reasons stated below, the Commissioner's decision
is reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings
consistent with this decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), sentence four.
filed an application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits, alleging disability beginning
September 29, 2012, due to fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis,
brain lesions, memory/cognitive impairment, migraines, severe
muscle and tendon cramping and spasms, and severe fatigue.
(Tr. 204-05.) A hearing was held before an Administrative Law
Judge on November 16, 2015. (Tr. 34.) Norek, represented by
counsel, appeared and testified at the hearing, as did Beth
A. Hoynik, a vocational expert.
written decision issued February 1, 2016, the ALJ found Norek
had the severe impairments of fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis,
torn meniscus of the right knee, and degenerative disc
disease of the lumbar spine. (Tr. 20.) The ALJ further found
that Norek 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”). (Tr. 22.) The ALJ found Norek had
the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform light work, except she can only occasionally stoop,
kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ramps and stairs and she
cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. (Id.) The
ALJ further limited Norek to only occasional exposure to
unprotected heights and precluded her from exposure to
humidity, wetness, dust, odors, fumes, pulmonary irritants,
and extreme heat and cold. (Id.)
ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final
decision when the Appeals Council denied the plaintiff's
request for review. (Tr. 1.) On her subsequent re-application
for benefits, Norek was approved for benefits beginning June
2017 with an onset date of December 7, 2016. (Docket # 17-1.)
Thus, Norek clarified that her appeal is only for the closed
period of Norek's alleged onset date of September 29,
2012 to December 6, 2016. (Pl.'s Reply Br. at 1, Docket #
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 two ways. First, she argues the
ALJ improperly assessed her RFC by failing to account for her
nonexertional limitations, specifically her problems with
fatigue, memory, and concentration, and failing to include
upper extremity limitations. Second, Norek alleges the ALJ
improperly weighed the opinions of her treating medical
providers, specifically, Dr. John Fahey (a rheumatologist),
Dr. Paul Zuzick (a family medicine doctor), and Dr. David
Tylicki (a pain management specialist). I will address each
argument in turn.
argues the ALJ erred in determining her RFC in two ways.
First, she argues the ALJ failed to account for her
nonexertional limitations in the RFC, specifically, fatigue
and impaired attention, concentration, and memory. Second,
she argues ...