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Rashin v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 24, 2015

ROBIN L. RASHIN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, [1] ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JEFFREY T. GILBERT, Magistrate Judge.

Claimant Robin Rashin ("Claimant") brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking reversal or remand of the decision of Respondent Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying her application for supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Local Rule 73.1 for all proceedings, including entry of final judgment. ECF No. 9.

This matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. ECF Nos. 17, 26. For the reasons discussed herein, the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 26) is denied. Claimant's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 17) is granted, and this matter is remanded to the Social Security Administration ("SSA") for further proceedings consistent with this Memorandum Opinion and Order.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Claimant filed an application for supplemental security income on December 8, 2009, alleging a disability onset date beginning December 1, 1998. R. 15. The SSA initially denied the application on April 22, 2010, and upon reconsideration on August 4, 2010. Id. Claimant filed a timely request for an administrative hearing on September 28, 2010, which was held before an administrative law judge ("ALJ") on August 23, 2011. Id. Claimant personally appeared and testified at the hearing, and she was represented by counsel. Id. Lee Knutson, a vocation expert, and Dawn De Boer-La Pole, Claimant's stepsister, also appeared and testified at the hearing. Id.

The ALJ issued a written decision on September 8, 2011, finding Claimant not disabled under the Social Security Act. Id. at 12-32. At step one of the required five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found that Claimant had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her application date of December 8, 2009. Id. at 17. At step two, the ALJ found that Claimant had the severe impairments of fibromyalgia, myofascial pain syndrome, depression, and anxiety with panic attacks. Id. At step three, the ALJ determined that Claimant 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 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1525 and 404.1526). Id.

The ALJ determined that Claimant had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(c), except that she could lift and/or carry fifty pounds occasionally and twenty-five pounds frequently; sit, stand, and/or walk for about six hours each in an eight-hour workday; perform simple one- and two-step tasks at a consistent pace; should not be required to drive on the expressway; and should not have more than occasional, brief, and superficial contact with the general public. Id. at 20. At step four, the ALJ found that Claimant had no relevant past work. Id. at 25. At step five, the ALJ found that there were jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy that Claimant could perform, and therefore found that Claimant was not disabled under the Social Security Act. Id.

The Social Security Appeals Council denied Claimant's request for review on December 13, 2012, leaving the ALJ's decision as the final decision of the Commissioner. Id. at 1-6. Claimant seeks review in this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See Haynes v. Barnhart, 416 F.3d 621, 626 (7th Cir. 2005).

II. ANALYSIS

Claimant argues that this matter should be reversed or remanded because (1) the ALJ's RFC determination lacks support in the record; (2) the ALJ failed to properly evaluate opinion evidence; (3) the ALJ's credibility determination is erroneous; and (4) the ALJ failed to properly consider the nature of Claimant's conditions. Cl.'s Br., ECF No. 17. After reviewing the parties' briefs and the administrative record, the Court concludes that the ALJ erred in failing to consider the medical opinions of Dr. Kristi Dickson. Therefore, remand is appropriate.

A. The ALJ erred in failing to consider the medical opinions of Dr. Kristi Dickson.

Claimant argues that the ALJ erred in failing to consider the medical opinions of her treating physician, Dr. Kristi Dickson. Cl.'s Br. 8-9, ECF No. 17. For the reasons discussed below, the Court agrees, and further finds that the ALJ's error was not harmless. Remand is therefore appropriate.

"In making her decision, an ALJ must articulate, at some minimum level, her analysis of the evidence." Dixon v. Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1176 (7th Cir. 2001), citing Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d 881, 885 (7th Cir. 2001). While an ALJ is not required to address every piece of evidence in the record, she "may not ignore an entire line of evidence that is contrary to [her] ruling." Golembiewski v. Barnhart, 322 F.3d 912, 917 (7th Cir. 2003) (internal citations omitted). "Otherwise, it is impossible for a reviewing court to tell whether the ALJ's decision rests upon substantial evidence." Id. , citing Smith v. Apfel, 231 F.3d 433, 438 (7th Cir. 2000).

Nowhere in the twelve-page decision denying Claimant disability benefits does the ALJ mention Dr. Dickson, let alone her opinions in support of Claimant. The Commissioner concedes this point, but argues that the omission was harmless error. Comm.'s Br. 11-13, ECF No. 26. The Court cannot agree with the Commissioner's harmless error argument. Indeed, the ALJ's failure to mention any evidence from Dr. Dickson is particularly egregious here because the ...


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