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McCann v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

August 29, 2014

RITA A. McCANN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, as Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ENTRY REVIEWING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION

JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, District Judge.

Plaintiff Rita A. McCann applied for Social Security disability benefits from the Social Security Administration ("SSA") on September 16, 2010, alleging a disability onset date of August 1, 2010. [Filing No. 9-2 at 17.] Her application was denied initially on December 8, 2010, and upon reconsideration on March 7, 2011. [Filing No. 9-2 at 17.] A hearing was held on April 4, 2012, before Administrative Law Judge Henry Kramzyk (the "ALJ"), who issued a decision on April 13, 2012, determining that Ms. McCann was not disabled and not entitled to receive disability benefits. [Filing No. 9-2 at 17; Filing No. 9-2 at 26.] The Appeals Council denied review on May 21, 2013, [Filing No. 9-2 at 8-10], making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's "final decision" subject to judicial review. Schmidt v. Astrue, 496 F.3d 833, 841 (7th Cir. 2007). Ms. McCann has filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), asking this Court to review her denial of disability benefits, [Filing No. 1; Filing No. 16].

I.

BACKGROUND

Ms. McCann was 57 years old at the hearing before the ALJ. [Filing No. 9-2 at 36.] She stopped working in March 2010 when she sold a bar and grill that she owned. [Filing No. 9-2 at 40; Filing No. 9-2 at 42.] At that job she poured drinks, served food, cleaned bathrooms, mopped floors, and did the dishes. [Filing No. 9-2 at 42-43.] Ms. McCann also previously worked at Sony Corporation, where she drove a forklift. [Filing No. 9-2 at 47.]

Ms. McCann alleges that she has been disabled since August 1, 2010, [Filing No. 9-5 at 2], due to chronic back, joint, and neck pain.[1] [Filing No. 9-2 at 48-49.] Using the five-step sequential evaluation set forth by the SSA in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520, the ALJ issued a decision on April 13, 2012, [Filing No. 9-2 at 17-26], finding as follows:

• At Step One, the ALJ found that Ms. McCann had not engaged in substantial gainful activity[2] after the alleged disability onset date. [Filing No. 9-2 at 19.]
• At Step Two, the ALJ found that Ms. McCann suffered from the following severe impairment: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar, thoracic and cervical spine. [Filing No. 9-2 at 19.]
• At Step Three, the ALJ found that Ms. McCann did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments. [Filing No. 9-2 at 21.] The ALJ concluded that Ms. McCann had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") "to lift and/or carry and push and/or pull up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, sit for a total of up to 6 hours in an 8 hour workday, and stand and/or walk for a total of up to 6 hours in an 8 hour workday, with only occasional climbing of ladders, ropes, scaffolds, ramps and stairs, and occasional balancing, stooping, crouching, kneeling, and crawling." [Filing No. 9-2 at 22.]
• At Step Four, the ALJ found that Ms. McCann is capable of performing her past relevant work as a manager of a liquor establishment. [Filing No. 9-2 at 25.]
• Because the ALJ found Ms. McCann to not be disabled at Step Four since she could perform her past relevant work, he did not reach the Step Five analysis.

[Filing No. 9-2 at 19-26.]

Ms. McCann requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's decision, but that request was denied on May 21, 2013. [Filing No. 9-2 at 8.] That decision is the final decision of the Commissioner for purposes of judicial review, and Ms. McCann subsequently sought relief from this Court. [Filing No. 1.]

II.

STANDARD OF REVIEW[3]

The Court's role in this action is limited to ensuring that the ALJ applied the correct legal standards and that substantial evidence exists for the ALJ's decision. Barnett v. Barnhart, 381 F.3d 664, 668 (7th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). For the purpose of judicial review, "[s]ubstantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. (quotation omitted). Because the ALJ "is in the best position to determine the credibility of witnesses, " Craft v. Astrue, 539 F.3d 668, 678 (7th Cir. 2008), this Court must afford the ALJ's credibility determination "considerable deference, " overturning it only if it is "patently wrong." Prochaska v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 731, 738 (7th Cir. 2006) (quotations omitted).

The ALJ must apply the five-step inquiry set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v), evaluating the following, in sequence:

(1) whether the claimant is currently [un]employed; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment; (3) whether the claimant's impairment meets or equals one of the impairments listed by the [Commissioner]; (4) whether the claimant can perform her past work; and (5) ...

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