Stepp v. Carolyn Colvin, No. 14-3163 (7th Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
Stepp, a former correctional officer, training secretary and coordinator, and parole probation officer, applied for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. 401. Stepp was 47 years old, 5’6” tall, and weighed 237 pounds. She primarily claimed degenerative disc disease and depression. An ALJ denied Stepp’s claim, acknowledging that Stepp suffered from chronic pain, but finding that surgery, medication, and therapy had resulted in improvement such that she retained the capacity to engage in sedentary work. Stepp submitted to the Appeals Council additional evidence in the form of medical records created just before the ALJ’s denial of her claim. This evidence, the treatment notes of pain management specialist Dr. MacKay, tends to suggest that Stepp’s condition did not improve over the course of the adjudicative period to the extent that the ALJ estimated. The Appeals Council declined to engage in plenary review and did not address Dr. MacKay’s notes. The district court affirmed. The Seventh Circuit remanded, finding that the ALJ properly analyzed a range of conflicting testimony and medical opinions and reached a conclusion adequately supported by the record, but that the Council erred in not accepting Dr. MacKay’s treatment notes as new and material evidence.