United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
DECISION AND ORDER
JOSEPH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Bickel 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 and a Title XVI application for supplemental
security income under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). For the reasons 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 and an application for
supplemental security income alleging disability beginning on
June 1, 2012 due to spine and lower back pain, depression,
and anxiety. (Tr. 134.) Bickel’s applications were
denied initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 13.) Bickel
filed a request for a hearing and a hearing was held before
an Administrative Law Judge on July 27, 2017. (Tr.
35–105.) Bickel testified at the hearing, as did
Catherine Anderson, a vocational expert, and Dr. Albert
Oguejiofor and Dr. Michael Lace, two medical experts. (Tr.
written decision issued August 25, 2017, the ALJ found that
Bickel had the severe impairments of depression and anxiety.
(Tr. 15.) While the ALJ considered Bickel’s allegations
of disabling pain due to her lower back and spine, the ALJ
found Bickel had no severe physical impairments. (Tr.
16–19.) The ALJ further found that Bickel 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.
19–21.) The ALJ found Bickel had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a full
range of work at all exertional levels, but with the
following nonexertional limitations: no fast pace production
tasks; no more than daily quotas; occasional contact with the
public, supervisors, and coworkers; and few changes to work
locations or tasks. (Tr. 21–26.)
found Bickel capable of performing her past relevant work as
a cleaner. (Tr. 26.) The ALJ alternatively found that given
Bickel’s age, education, work experience, and RFC,
other jobs existed in significant numbers in the national
economy that she could also perform. (Id.) As such,
the ALJ found that Bickel was not disabled from her alleged
onset date until the date of the decision. (Tr. 27.) The
ALJ’s decision became the Commissioner’s final
decision when the Appeals Council denied the
plaintiff’s request for review. (Tr. 1–5.)
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
argues that the ALJ erred by: (1) improperly evaluating the
opinion of her treating psychiatrist, Dr. Raymond Kloss; (2)
erroneously formulating Bickel’s RFC, specifically the
finding that Bickel could perform a full range of work at all
exertional levels; and (3) relying on the VE’s
unreliable testimony. I will address each in turn, but will
begin with the second alleged error.
Physical Limitations in RFC
two of the five-step sequential evaluation for determining
whether an individual is disabled, the ALJ determines whether
a claimant has one or more medically determinable physical or
mental impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1521. An impairment
must result from anatomical, physiological, or psychological
abnormalities that can be shown by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques; thus, a
physical or mental impairment must be established by
objective medical evidence from an acceptable medical source.
Id. A plaintiff’s statement of symptoms, a
diagnosis, or a medical opinion alone will not establish the
existence of an impairment. Id. After a medically
determinable impairment is established, the ALJ then
determines whether the impairment is severe. Id. An
impairment is severe if “it significantly limits an
individual’s physical or mental abilities to do basic
work activities” and is non-severe if it is a slight
abnormality “that has no more than a minimal effect on
the ability to do basic work activities.” Social
Security Ruling (“SSR”) 96-3p (rescinded
effective June 14, 2018). However, in assessing RFC, an ALJ
must consider limitations and restrictions ...