United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
DECISION AND ORDER
William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge
Rachel Enfelt commenced this civil action for judicial review
of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
denying her application for supplemental security income
(SSI) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. Enfelt
contends that the administrative law judge's (ALJ's)
decision, which became final after the Appeals Council denied
review, R. 1-6, is subject to reversal on five grounds. These
grounds include: (1) the ALJ's listing discussion failed
to comport with the Act; (2) the ALJ erroneously relied on
Enfelt's activities of daily living; (3) the ALJ failed
to include a function-by-function residual functional
capacity (RFC) assessment; (4) the ALJ erroneously relied on
the vocational expert's (VE's) testimony; and (5) the
ALJ failed to account for Enfelt's moderate limitations
in concentration, persistence, or pace (CPP) in the RFC
assessment. For the reasons provided below, the
Commissioner's decision will be affirmed.
filed an application for SSI on February 25, 2014, alleging
disability beginning on November 13, 2013. After her claim
was denied both initially and upon reconsideration, Enfelt
filed a written request for a hearing before an ALJ. ALJ
Guila Parker conducted a video hearing on February 1, 2017,
at which Enfelt, who was represented by counsel, and a VE
testified. R. 34-63. At the time of the hearing, Enfelt was
thirty-seven years old and lived in a duplex with her teenage
daughter. R. 39-40. Enfelt's mother and three of her
sons, one eighteen and the others twelve-year-old twins,
would regularly visit her, though they did not stay with her
full-time. R. 40-41.
hearing, Enfelt testified about her employment after November
13, 2013, the date she allegedly became disabled. R. 41.
Enfelt testified that she worked at Woodlands Senior Park, an
assisted living facility in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, where she
helped set up tables, pour drinks, and put food on plates, a
position she left after two to three weeks because she found
it too difficult to work independently. R. 42. When asked
about her employment at Opportunities, Inc. and Wisco
Partners, she testified that she does not remember those
jobs, although she speculated they may be related to job
coaching through “DVR.” R. 41-43. Enfelt also
testified that she tried pet grooming and factory work but
stopped because she could not handle the pace or remember the
tasks that needed to be performed. R. 49-52.
asked to identify her biggest struggle with full-time work,
Enfelt testified that her learning disability makes it
difficult for her to concentrate, work at a fast pace, and
remember things. R. 43. She testified that she struggled with
reading, writing, and dealing with money. Id. She
also testified that she suffers from anxiety, which is
triggered when she is on her own and does not know what to do
and the symptoms of which include panicking, becoming shaky
and “flushy, ” and leading her to walk away. R.
43-44. She also claimed to suffer a bit of depression because
her disability prevents her from doing things, such as
adequately caring for her children. R. 44.
her leisure activities, Enfelt testified that she and her
teenage daughter watch movies at home, take care of their
dog, and go shopping at the grocery store and mall. R. 45.
Enfelt also watches movies at her place with a couple
friends. R. 46. Enfelt testified that she sometimes goes out
to eat with her parents and that she attends family
gatherings. Id. Regarding household chores, Enfelt
testified that she receives help from her mother in paying
bills, but she is able to manage her personal care, make
frozen T.V. dinners, share laundry responsibilities with her
daughter, and change her bed sheets regularly. R. 47-48. When
driving, Enfelt sticks to familiar roads within city limits
and maintains reasonable speeds because she will panic if
moving too quickly. R. 54.
thirteen-page written decision dated April 10, 2017, the ALJ
concluded that Enfelt was not disabled within the meaning of
the Social Security Act since February 25, 2014, the
application date. R. 15, 27. The ALJ applied the Social
Security Administration's (SSA's) five-step
sequential evaluation process. At step one, the ALJ
determined that Enfelt had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since February 25, 2014. R. 17. At step two, the ALJ
found that Enfelt had the following severe impairments:
cognitive disorder, adjustment disorder, and a learning
disability. Id. At step three, the ALJ determined
that Enfelt did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one
of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1. R. 18. After reviewing the record, the ALJ
concluded that Enfelt had the RFC to
perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, but is
restricted to never working around dangerous moving
machinery. The claimant is also limited to simple, routine,
and repetitive tasks performed in a low stress job (defined
as one that requires no more than occasional work-related
decisions and changes in the work setting), in a position
that requires no more than occasional interaction with the
public, with no production rate pace (such as assembly line
work) or job tasks that require a GED Mathematical
Development higher than 01 as defined in the DOT.
Furthermore, the claimant would require that instructions be
repeated at least twice daily (or tasks be demonstrated at
least twice daily) and her work checked at least once daily
during the first week of employment.
R. 21. At step four, the ALJ noted that Enfelt had no past
relevant work. R. 26. However, the ALJ determined at step
five that there exist jobs in the national economy in
significant numbers that Enfelt could perform, such as
commercial cleaner (janitor), hospital cleaner, or laundry
laborer. R. 26-27. After the ALJ's decision that Enfelt
was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security
Act became final, Enfelt filed this action for judicial
question before the court is not whether it agrees with the
Commissioner's conclusion that the plaintiff is not
disabled. Judicial review of the decisions of administrative
agencies is intended to be deferential. Parker v.
Astrue, 597 F.3d 920, 921 (7th Cir. 2010). The Social
Security Act specifies that the “findings of the
Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported
by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive.” 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). The Supreme Court recently reaffirmed
that “[u]nder the substantial-evidence standard, a
court looks to an existing administrative record and asks
whether it contains ‘sufficien[t] evidence' to
support the agency's factual determinations.”
Beistek v. Berryhill, 139 S.Ct. 1148, 1154 (2019)
(quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S.
197, 229 (1938)). “The phrase ‘substantial
evidence, '” the Court explained, “is a
‘term of art' used throughout administrative law to
describe how courts are to review agency factfinding.”
Id. “And whatever the meaning of
‘substantial' in other contexts, ” the Court
noted, “the threshold for such evidentiary sufficiency
is not high.” Id. Substantial evidence is
“‘more than a mere scintilla.' . . . It
means-and means only-‘such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.'” Id. (quoting
Consolidated Edison, 305 U.S. at 229).
an ALJ need not discuss every piece of evidence in the
record, the ALJ may not ignore an entire line of evidence
that is contrary to the ruling.” Terry v.
Astrue, 580 F.3d 471, 477 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing
Villano v. Astrue, 556 F.3d 558, 563 (7th Cir.
2009); Indoranto v. Barnhart, 374 F.3d 470, 474 (7th
Cir. 2004)). The ALJ must provide a “logical
bridge” between the evidence and conclusions.
Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 872 (7th Cir.
2000). Given this standard, and because a reviewing court may
not substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ,
“challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence rarely
succeed.” Schmidt v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 737,
744 (7th Cir. 2005).
the ALJ is 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). 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)).
Step Three ...