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Holt v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

November 13, 2014

FARION C. HOLT, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Farion C. Holt requests judicial review of the final decision of the Defendant, Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("the Commissioner"), denying his applications for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Insurance Benefits ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act"). The Court, having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, rules as follows.


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 his physical or mental limitations prevent him from doing not only his previous work, but any other kind of gainful employment which exists in the national economy, considering his 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 he is not disabled, despite his medical condition and other factors. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b).[1] At step two, if the claimant does not have a "severe" impairment (i.e., one that significantly limits his ability to perform basic work activities), he 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 his past relevant work, he 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, he 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. Overman v. Astrue, 546 F.3d 456, 462 (7th Cir. 2008). The ALJ is required to articulate only a minimal, but legitimate, justification for her 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 her analysis of the evidence in her decision; while she "is not required to address every piece of evidence or testimony, " she must "provide some glimpse into her reasoning... [and] build an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to her conclusion." Dixon, 270 F.3d at 1176.


Mr. Holt protectively filed for DIB and SSI on December 10, 2010, alleging he became disabled on January 1, 2010, primarily due to a learning disability, nervousness, and an anxiety disorder. His application was denied initially on March 8, 2011, and again upon reconsideration on April 28, 2011. Following the denial upon reconsideration, Mr. Holt requested and received a hearing in front of Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Janice Bruning. A video hearing, during which Mr. Holt was represented by counsel, was held on May 2, 2012. The ALJ issued her decision denying Mr. Holt's application on August 2, 2012. The Appeals Council denied Mr. Holt's request for review on September 25, 2013. After the Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision, Mr. Holt filed this timely appeal.


The medical evidence of record is aptly set forth in Mr. Holt's brief (dkt. no. 16) and need not be recited here. Specific facts are set forth in the discussion section below where relevant.


The ALJ determined at step one that Mr. Holt had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 1, 2010, the alleged onset date. At steps two and three, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Holt had the severe impairment of "organic mental disorder, " R. at 13, but that his impairment did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment. At step four, the ALJ determined that Mr. Holt had the RFC to "perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but can only perform simple, routine tasks and should avoid contact with the public for work related purposes and no more than occasional contact with co-workers and supervisors." Id. at 16. Given this RFC, the ALJ determined that Mr. Holt could perform his past relevant work as a housekeeper. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Holt was not disabled as defined by the Act.


In his brief in support of his Complaint, Mr. Holt alleges that the ALJ: 1) erred in concluding that his mental impairment did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment; 2) failed to call a psychologist to testify whether his mental impairment met or medically equaled a listed impairment; 3) erred in her credibility determination; 4) and erred at Steps Four ...

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