United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
DECISION AND ORDER
JOSEPH, United States Magistrate Judge
Noonan 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). For the reasons below, the Commissioner’s
decision is affirmed.
filed an application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits alleging disability beginning
on September 11, 2013 due to lupus, diabetes, diabetic
neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism,
cholesterol, depression, hiatal hernia, cataracts, and TMD.
(Tr. 65–66.) Noonan’s applications were denied
initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 15.) Noonan filed a
request for a hearing and a hearing was held before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on January 24,
2017. (Tr. 30–58.) Noonan testified at the hearing, as
did Shannon Hollander, a vocational expert. (Tr. 30.)
written decision issued February 17, 2017, the ALJ found that
Noonan had the following severe impairments: degenerative
disc disease, lumbar radiculopathy, lupus, osteoarthritis,
depression, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and bilateral
carpal tunnel syndrome. (Tr. 17.) The ALJ further found that
Noonan 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. 18.) The ALJ found that Noonan
had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform sedentary work, with the following limitations: never
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasionally climb ramps
or stairs; frequently finger bilaterally with the upper
extremities; and limited to simple, routine tasks involving
simple, work-related decisions in an environment free of
fast-paced productivity requirements and with few workplace
changes. (Tr. 19.)
the ALJ found that Noonan was unable to perform any of her
past relevant work (Tr. 22), the ALJ determined that given
Noonan’s age, education, work experience, and RFC, jobs
existed in significant No. in the national economy that she
could perform. (Tr. 23.) As such, the ALJ found that Noonan
was not disabled from her alleged onset date until the date
of the decision. (Tr. 24.) The ALJ’s decision became
the Commissioner’s final decision when the Appeals
Council denied the plaintiff’s request for review. (Tr.
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
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 the ALJ erred by: (1) failing to consider whether she
met Listing 11.14; (2) creating an evidentiary gap after
rejecting the opinions of the state agency physicians; and
(3) improperly discounting Noonan’s subjective
symptoms. I will address each argument in turn.
Consideration of Listing 11.14
argues the ALJ erred by failing to consider whether she met
Listing 11.14– Peripheral Neuropathy. The plaintiff has
the burden of showing that her impairments meet or medically
equal a listing. Scheck v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 697, 700 (7th
Cir. 2004). To establish that an impairment or combination of
impairments meet or are equivalent to a listed impairment, a
plaintiff must present medical findings that meet or are
equal in severity to all of the criteria in a listing.
Sullivan v. Zebley, 493 U.S. 521, 530–31 (1990) (citing
SSR 83–19 and 20 C.F.R. § 416.926(a)). The Seventh
Circuit has stated that an ALJ’s “failure to
discuss or even cite a listing, combined with an otherwise
perfunctory analysis, may require a remand.” Brindisi
ex rel. Brindisi v. Barnhart, 315 F.3d 783, 786 (7th Cir.
2003) (internal citation omitted). However, the court has
also found that “the ALJ may rely solely on opinions
given in Disability Determination and Transmittal forms and
provide little additional explanation . . . . [if] there is
no contradictory evidence in the record.” Ribaudo v.
Barnhart, 458 F.3d 580, 584 (7th Cir. 2006). Furthermore,
“[a]lthough an ALJ should provide a [listings]
analysis, a claimant first has the burden to present medical
findings that match or equal in severity all the criteria
specified by a listing.” Knox v. Astrue, 327 Fed.Appx.
652, 655 (7th Cir. 2009) (internal citations omitted).
analyzed whether Noonan’s back condition met Listing
1.04, whether her lupus met Listing 14.02, whether her carpal
tunnel syndrome met Listing 1.02, and whether her mental
impairments met Listing 12.04. (Tr. 18–19.) The ALJ did
not, however, analyze whether the medical evidence met or
medically equaled ...