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Vanover v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

December 2, 2014

TONYA A. VANOVER, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant

OPINION AND ORDER

ROBERT L. MILLER, Jr., District Judge.

Tonya Vanover seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her applications for disability insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 423 and 1381. The court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). For the reasons that follow, the court affirms the Commissioner's decision.

Mrs. Vanover asserted disability on or before November 30, 1998 due to various physical and mental impairments. In 2012, an administrative hearing was held, at which Mrs. Vanover was represented by counsel. Administrative Law Judge Warnecke Miller entered an unfavorable decision, and Mrs. Vanover challenged that decision by filing a timely request for Review of Hearing Decision. The Appeals Council denied her request for review on September 9, 2013.

In evaluating Mrs. Vanover's disability claim, the ALJ considered the documentary evidence, together with testimony from Mrs. Vanover, her husband, and vocational expert Pamela Witham. Applying the agency's standard five-step analysis, 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520, the ALJ found that Mrs. Vanover:

(1) met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through June 30, 2005;
(2) had engaged in substantial gainful activity after her alleged onset date;
(3) had severe impairments of interstitial cystitis; obesity; bipolar disorder; depression; inflammatory/irritable bowel syndrome; and disorders of the spine;
(4) didn't have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpt. P, App'x 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926); and
(5) had the physical residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), with some limitations.[1]

The ALJ concluded that Mrs. Vanover wasn't disabled within the meaning of the Act. When the Appeals Council denied her request for review, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 107 (2000); Jones v. Astrue, 623 F.3d 1155, 1160 (7th Cir. 2010). This appeal followed.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The issue before the court isn't whether Mrs. Vanover is disabled, but whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision that she is not. Scott v. Astrue 647 F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir. 2011); Nelms v. Astrue, 553 F.3d 1093, 1097 (7th Cir. 2009). Substantial evidence means "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Jones v. Astrue, 623 F.3d 1155, 1160 (7th Cir. 2010). In reviewing the ALJ's decision, the court can't reweigh the evidence, make independent findings of fact, decide credibility, or substitute its own judgment for that of the Commissioner, Similia v. Astrue, 573 F.3d 503, 513 (7th Cir. 2009); Powers v. Apfel, 207 F.3d 431, 434-435 (7th Cir. 2000), but must "conduct a critical review of the evidence, considering both the evidence that supports, as well as the evidence that detracts from, the Commissioner's decision." Briscoe v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 351 (7th Cir. 2005). While the ALJ isn't required "to address every piece of evidence or testimony present, [s]he must provide a logical bridge' between the evidence and the conclusion so that [the court] can assess the validity of the agency's ultimate findings and afford the claimant meaningful judicial review." Jones v. Astrue, 623 F.3d 1155, 1160 (7th Cir. 2010).

II. DISCUSSION

Mrs. Vanover challenges the ALJ's decision in two respects: she claims the ALJ improperly overemphasized her daily activities and the ALJ failed to incorporate ...


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