Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Cummings v. Colvin

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

August 24, 2016

JENNIFER M. CUMMINGS, Claimant,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JEFFREY T. GILBERT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Claimant Jennifer M. Cummings ("Claimant") seeks review of the final decision of Respondent Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner"), denying Claimant's applications for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Local Rule 73.1, the parties consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge for all proceedings, including entry of final judgment. [ECF No. 5.]

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the parties cross-moved for summary judgment. [ECF No. 14; ECF No. 21.] For the reasons stated below, Claimant's motion for summary judgment is granted and the Commissioner's is denied. The decision of the Commissioner is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this Memorandum Opinion and Order.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Claimant filed an application for disability insurance benefits on January 18, 2011, alleging a disability onset date of December 3, 2010. (R. 135.) After an initial denial and a denial on reconsideration, Claimant filed a request for an administrative hearing. (R. 81-82, 93- 94.) Claimant, who was unrepresented at her hearing, appeared and testified before an Administrative Law Judge (the "ALJ") on May 16, 2012. (R. 39-71.) A vocational expert also testified. (R. 39, 71-79.)

         On June 13, 2012, the ALJ issued a written decision denying Claimant's application for benefits based on a finding that she was not disabled under the Social Security Act. (R. 24-38.) The opinion followed the five-step sequential evaluation process required by Social Security Regulations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. As an initial matter, the ALJ noted that Claimant met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2014. (R. 29.) At step one, the ALJ found that Claimant had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date of December 3, 2010. (Id.) At step two, the ALJ found that Claimant had the severe impairments of degenerative disc disease, headaches, fibromyalgia, plantar fasciitis, obesity, and a history of colitis. (Id.) At step three, the ALJ found 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. §404.1520.) (Id)

         Before step four, the ALJ found that Claimant had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform sedentary work with the following restrictions: she could never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolding; she could only occasionally perform overhead reaching; and she could have only occasional exposure to noise, vibration, and hazards such as machinery or unprotected heights. (R. 30.) Based on this RFC, the ALJ determined at step four that Claimant could perform her past relevant work of optometric assistant. (R. 33.) As an alternate finding, at step five, the ALJ found that Claimant was able to perform other work existing in the national economy, including the jobs of surveillance system monitor, charge account clerk, and telephone quotation clerk. (R. 33-34.) Because of this determination, the ALJ found that Claimant was not disabled under the Social Security Act. (R. 34.) The Social Security Appeals Council subsequently denied Claimant's request for review, and the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. (R. 18-20.) See Nelms v. Astrue, 553 F.3d 1093, 1097 (7th Cir. 2009). Claimant now 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. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A decision by an ALJ becomes the Commissioner's final decision if the Appeals Council denies a request for review. Sims v, Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-107 (2000). Under such circumstances, the district court reviews the decision of the ALJ. Id. Judicial review is limited to determining whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record and whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards in reaching her decision. Nelms v. Astrue, 553F.3datl097.

         Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, " Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). A "mere scintilla" of evidence is not enough. Scott v. Barnhart, 297 F.3d 589, 593 (7th Cir. 2002). Even when there is adequate evidence in the record to support the decision, however, the findings will not be upheld if the ALJ does not "build an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to the conclusion." Berger v. Astrue, 516 F.3d 539, 544 (7th Cir. 2008), If the Commissioner's decision lacks evidentiary support or adequate discussion of the issues, it cannot stand. Villano v. Astrue, 556 F.3d 558, 562 (7th Cir. 2009).

         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). Though the standard of review is deferential, a reviewing court must "conduct a critical review of the evidence" before affirming the Commissioner's decision. Eichstadt v. Astrue, 534 F.3d 663, 665 (7th Cir. 2008). It may not, however, "displace the ALJ's judgment by reconsidering facts or evidence." Elder v. Astrue, 529 F.3d 408, 413 (7th Cir. 2008). Thus, judicial review is limited to determining whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards and whether there is substantial evidence to support the findings. Nelms v. Astrue, 553 F.3d at 1097. The reviewing court may enter a judgment "affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the [Commissioner], with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Claimant asserts that at least seven distinct errors mar the ALJ's analysis, mandating remand. Among the errors she cites are the ALJ's omission of any assessment of her treating chiropractor's opinions and the ALJ's failure to adequately assess the functional impact of her headaches. Because these issues mandate remand, the Court will not address Claimant's other arguments in full at this time.

         A. The ALJ Erred in Omitting Reference to the Opinions of ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.