United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
JESSICA R. RESCH, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S
William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge United States District
Jessica R. Resch filed his action for judicial review of a
decision by the Commissioner of Social Security denying her
application for a period of disability and disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act.
Resch contends that the administrative law judge's (ALJ)
decision is flawed and requires remand for two reasons: (1)
the ALJ erred in evaluating Resch's subjective symptoms
and related limitations and (2) the ALJ erred in relying on
the state agency physician opinions. For the reasons that
follow, the decision of the Commissioner will be affirmed.
first completed an application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits on June 28, 2011, alleging
disability beginning July 1, 2009. Her application was denied
initially and on reconsideration. Resch subsequently
requested an administrative hearing before an ALJ, and on
March 13, 2013, ALJ Thomas J. Sanzi held a hearing. Resch
amended her alleged onset date to February 1, 2011. On April
2, 2013, ALJ Sanzi concluded that Resch was not disabled
under the Social Security Act. R. 66. ALJ Sanzi's
decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when
the Appeals Council denied Resch's request for review on
March 27, 2014. R. 71-74.
1, 2014, Resch, age 30 at the time, filed a second Title II
application for a period of disability and disability
insurance benefits beginning August 1, 2011. R. 196. She
listed vertigo, migraines, depression, hypothyroidism, and
fibromyalgia as the conditions that limited her ability to
work. R. 226. Following the denial of her application
initially and on reconsideration, Resch requested a hearing
before an ALJ. ALJ Karen Sayon conducted a hearing on June 1,
2017. Resch, who was represented by counsel, and a vocational
expert (VE) testified.
outset, Resch amended her onset date to August 4, 2014, and
her counsel indicated that she sought a closed period of
disability from August 4, 2014 through December 31, 2014. R.
36. At the time of the hearing, Resch lived in a house with
her husband in Bryant, Wisconsin. R. 38. She testified that
her husband drove her to the hearing because she experiences
vertigo and feels unsteady driving. R. 39. Resch graduated
from college with a degree in health promotion and wellness.
Id. From 2006 to 2009, Resch worked as a wellness
coordinator for Landlake Hospital. R. 40. The position was
grant-funded and its funding lapsed in June 2009. R. 45.
Resch did not engage in any other substantial gainful
activity after her position had been terminated.
attorney indicated her medically determinable severe
impairments included dizziness and migraines. R. 37. Resch
testified that she had three to seven headaches every month,
each lasting 12 hours to four days. R. 40. She took
Ibuprofen, Citalopram, Cardizem, and Jolessa for the
headaches. R.41-42. Resch indicated that her headaches were
more frequent and intense when her doctors modified her
medications. R. 46. She reported that she has vertigo every
day, but flare-ups occur three to seven days each month. R.
42. Resch stated that her vertigo increased when she had a
headache. She testified that the vertigo causes her to feel
unsteady and prevents her from engaging in physical activity
that lasts longer than five to ten minutes. R. 43.
also testified about her average day. She reported that she
gets out of bed, takes her medication then eats breakfast,
walks to get the mail, eats lunch, watches television, eats
supper, then goes to bed. R. 44. She does not do any chores
and sporadically uses a computer. R. 45. When she does leave
the house, she cannot be gone for more than four hours. R.
46. On days when she has a migraine, she stays in bed all day
and puts an ice pack on her neck.
written decision dated June 8, 2017, the ALJ concluded Resch
was not disabled at any time from August 4, 2014, the alleged
onset date, through December 31, 2014, the date last insured.
R. 17-27. Following the agency's five-step sequential
evaluation process, the ALJ concluded at step one that Resch
last met the insured status requirements of the Social
Security Act on December 31, 2014, and did not engage in
substantial gainful activity during the period from her
alleged onset date through her date last insured. R. 19. At
step two, the ALJ found Resch had the following severe
impairments: migraine headaches, dizziness/vertigo, and
obesity. Id. At step three, the ALJ determined
Resch's impairments or combination of impairments did not
meet or medically equal any listed impairments under 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. R. 21.
reviewing the record, the ALJ concluded Resch had the
residual functional capacity (RFC) through the date last
insured to “perform medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1567(c) except she could not be exposed to
hazards, defined as work at heights or around dangerous
moving machinery like a forklift. Any work must have been
performed in an environment with a noise intensity level of
1, 2, or 3, as defined in the Dictionary of Occupational
Titles.” R. 22. The ALJ found at step four that Resch
was unable to perform her past relevant work as a health
service coordinator. R. 25. She nevertheless found at step
five that there were jobs that existed in significant numbers
in the national economy that Resch could have performed,
including linen room attendant, laundry worker, and marker.
R. 26. Based on these findings, the ALJ concluded Resch was
not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act
from August 4, 2014, through December 31, 2014. R. 27. The
ALJ's decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Resch's
request for review. Resch then commenced this action for
final decision of the Commissioner will be upheld if the ALJ
applied the correct legal standards and supported her
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 conclusion 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 Social Security
Administration'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 ...