United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit
Public Health — disability benefits
The denial of disability benefits must be reversed where the ALJ did not explain why the applicant did not meet the requirements for a presumptive disability.
“[T]he Commissioner gives a reason for discounting the evidence that the ALJ never relied upon. Whether by accident or oversight, the ALJ never referenced Dr. Hall’s examination in her analysis of § 1.04(A). Even if we assume that she intended to, the ALJ never stated that she rejected the range-of-motion evidence due to Kastner’s pain. We have repeatedly held that an ALJ must provide a logical bridge between the evidence in the record and her conclusion. Craft, 539 F.3d at 673. Here, the Commissioner argues that by referring to motion limitations ‘anticipated by section 1.04A,’ the ALJ meant to cross-reference both § 1.00(G) and a specific section of the AMA Guides. But this is not a logical bridge; it is a soaring inferential leap. Nothing in the ALJ’s decision indicates that this relatively obscure cross-reference was the basis for the determination. Under the Chenery doctrine, the Commissioner’s lawyers cannot defend the agency’s decision on grounds that the agency itself did not embrace. See SEC v. Chenery Corp., 318 U.S. 80, 87-88 (1943); Parker v. Astrue, 597 F.3d 920, 922 (7th Cir. 2010). On appeal, the Commissioner may not generate a novel basis for the ALJ’s determination. To permit meaningful review, the ALJ was obligated to explain sufficiently what she meant by ‘limitation of motion of the spine as anticipated by section 1.04A.’ See Steele, 290 F.3d at 940.”
Reversed and Remanded.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Hussmann, Mag. J., Williams, J.