United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit
Public Health — disability benefits
Where the ALJ failed to assess the residual functional capacity of an applicant for disability benefits, the denial must be reversed.
“The first significant problem that we see is the ALJ’s failure to incorporate adequately Arnett’s mental impairments into the RFC. Dr. Yordy diagnosed Arnett with depressive, anxiety, and panic disorders. Dr. Bundza diagnosed Arnett with vascular dementia, reporting that she had some ‘fairly obvious cognitive problems,’ including difficulty understanding directions, slowly responding to simple questions, a low-average or borderline range of intelligence, and ‘fairly significant retrieval problems.’ The ALJ discussed Dr. Yordy’s diagnoses at Step 2 of the analysis, and the ALJ even says that he ‘translated’ his Step 2 determination ‘into work-related functions’ in assessing Arnett’s RFC, but the decision offers no hint about how he did so. The ALJ never mentioned that Arnett had been diagnosed with vascular dementia. The Commissioner suggests that these omissions are unimportant, because the RFC is consistent with the limitations associated with dementia. Nothing in the ALJ’s opinion explains how that may be the case, however, and the RFC makes no reference to any work limitations that would accommodate dementia. Symptoms of dementia include an inability to learn or remember new information, an inability to reason, and difficulty communicating. Mayo Clinic, Dementia: symptoms, http://www.mayoclinic.com/ health/dementia/DS01131/DSECTION=symptoms (last visited March 28, 2012). Dr. Bundza’s report demonstrates that Arnett was suffering from these symptoms as early as two years before the hearing. An inability to learn or remember new information could make it impossible for Arnett to be trained for a new position, and the inability to reason or difficulty communicating could make simple tasks difficult and time-consuming for Arnett to complete. Without any discussion of Arnett’s dementia, this court has no idea what the ALJ thought about this evidence. See Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 873- 74 (7th Cir. 2000); Godbey v. Apfel, 238 F.3d 803, 808 (7th Cir. 2000).”
Reversed and remanded.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Miller, J., Wood, J.