United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW
William T. Lawrence, Judge United States District Court
Plaintiff Christine Tinson requests judicial review of the final decision of Defendant, Carolyn W. Colvin, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”), denying Ms. Tinson’s application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (“the Act”). The Court rules as follows.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Christine Tinson protectively filed for SSI and DIB on December 16, 2009, alleging she became disabled on September 15, 2009, primarily due to depression, shoulder pain, and back pain. Ms. Tinson’s application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. Following the denial upon reconsideration, Ms. Tinson requested and received a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). A hearing, at which Ms. Tinson was represented by counsel, was held in front of ALJ Mark C. Ziercher on July 8, 2011. The ALJ issued his decision denying Ms. Tinson’s claim on November 22, 2011. The Appeals Council also denied Ms. Tinson’s request for review on October 23, 2012. After the Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ’s decision, Ms. Tinson filed this timely appeal.
II. EVIDENCE OF RECORD
The evidence of record is aptly set forth in Ms. Tinson’s brief. Specific facts are set forth in the discussion section below where relevant.
III. APPLICABLE STANDARD
Disability is defined as “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable mental or physical impairment which can be expected to result in death, or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). In order to be found disabled, a claimant must demonstrate that her physical or mental limitations prevent her from doing not only her previous work, but any other kind of gainful employment which exists in the national economy, considering her age, education, and work experience. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).
In determining whether a claimant is disabled, the Commissioner employs a five-step sequential analysis. At step one, if the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity (“SGA”) she is not disabled, despite her medical condition and other factors. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). At step two, if the claimant does not have a “severe” impairment (i.e., one that significantly limits her ability to perform basic work activities), she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). At step three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant’s impairment or combination of impairments meets or medically equals any impairment that appears in the Listing of Impairments, 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, App. 1, and whether the impairment meets the twelve-month duration requirement; if so, the claimant is deemed disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). At step four, if the claimant is able to perform her past relevant work, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f). At step five, if the claimant can perform any other work in the national economy, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(g).
In reviewing the ALJ’s decision, the ALJ’s findings of fact are conclusive and must be upheld by this court “so long as substantial evidence supports them and no error of law occurred.” Dixon v. Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1176 (7th Cir. 2001). “Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion,” id., and this Court may not reweigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. Binion v. Chater, 108 F.3d 780, 782 (7th Cir. 1997). The ALJ is required to articulate only a minimal, but legitimate, justification for his acceptance or rejection of specific evidence of disability. Scheck v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 697, 700 (7th Cir. 2004). In order to be affirmed, the ALJ must articulate his analysis of the evidence in his decision; while he “is not required to address every piece of evidence or testimony,” he must “provide some glimpse into [his] reasoning . . . [and] build an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to [his] conclusion.” Dixon, 270 F.3d at 1176.
IV. THE ALJ’S DECISION
The ALJ determined at step one that Ms. Tinson had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 15, 2009, the alleged onset date. At steps two and three, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Tinson has the severe impairments of “shoulder pain; back pain; and major depression,” R. at 17, but that her impairments, singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment. At step four, the ALJ determined that Ms. Tinson had the RFC to perform light work with the following restrictions:
She can stand and/or walk for 1 hour uninterrupted for up to a total of 6 hours in an 8-hour workday, and can sit for 1 hour uninterrupted for up to a total of 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. She can occasionally climb ramps and stairs; can never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; and can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. She can frequently reach in all directions with her dominant arm. She can have occasional exposure to hazards (e.g., dangerous moving machinery or unprotected heights) or wetness . . . Due to moderate limitations in concentration, persistence, and pace, she can understand, remember, and perform simple work tasks in the range of 1 to 3 steps, and can cumulatively perform productive work tasks for 95% of an 8-hour workday, not including the typical morning, lunch, and afternoon breaks. She can perform work that does not require transactional contact with the general public . . . She can have occasional contact with coworkers and supervisors . . . She can perform work that requires occasional reading and/or writing.
Id. at 20. Given that RFC, the ALJ determined that she could not perform any of her past relevant work. Finally, at step five the ALJ determined that Ms. Tinson could perform a range of light work that exists in the national economy, including a stocker, food prep worker, and packing line worker. ...