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Brown v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

February 3, 2015

CEDRIC BROWN, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

PAUL R. CHERRY, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by Plaintiff Cedric Brown, Sr. on January 27, 2014, and a Plaintiff's Brief in Support of Reversing the Decision of the Commissioner of Social Security [DE 15], filed by Plaintiff on July 11, 2014. Plaintiff requests that the March 5, 2013 decision of the Administrative Law Judge denying his claim for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income be reversed and remanded for further proceedings. On October 17, 2014, the Commissioner filed a response, and Plaintiff filed a reply on November 17, 2014. For the following reasons, the Court grants Plaintiff's request for remand.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff suffers from depression, high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, and neck, back, arm, and leg pain. On April 8, 2011, Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income, alleging an onset date of February 1, 2007. The application was denied initially on July 27, 2011, and upon reconsideration on November 3, 2011. Plaintiff timely requested a hearing, which was held on February 1, 2013, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Henry Kramzyk. In appearance were Plaintiff, his attorney, and a vocational expert.

The ALJ issued a written decision denying benefits on March 5, 2013, making the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through March 31, 2012.

2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 1, 2007, the alleged onset date.

3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: hypertension/angina; hyperthyroidism; and degenerative disc disease of the lumbar, thoracic and cervical spine.

4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.

5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except that the claimant is limited to no more than occasional climbing of ramps and stairs, no climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and no more than occasional balancing, stooping, and crouching, but never any kneeling or crawling. Further, the claimant must avoid concentrated exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights.

6. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work as a purchasing clerk, shipping order clerk, and fork lift driver. This work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the claimant's residual functional capacity.

7. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from February 1, 2007, through the date of this decision.

(AR 24-32).

On November 29, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, leaving the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981. On January 27, 2014, Plaintiff filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) for review of the Agency's decision.

The parties filed forms of consent to have this case assigned to a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all further proceedings and to order the entry of a final judgment in this case. Therefore, this Court has jurisdiction to decide this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Social Security Act authorizes judicial review of the final decision of the agency and indicates that the Commissioner's factual findings must be accepted as conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Thus, a court reviewing the findings of an ALJ will reverse only if the findings are not supported by substantial evidence or if the ALJ has applied an erroneous legal standard. See Briscoe v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 351 (7th Cir. 2005). Substantial evidence consists of "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Schmidt v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 737, 744 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Gudgel v. Barnhart, 345 F.3d 467, 470 (7th Cir. 2003)).

A court reviews the entire administrative record but does not reconsider facts, re-weigh the evidence, resolve conflicts in evidence, decide questions of credibility, or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. See Boiles v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 421, 425 (7th Cir. 2005); Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 869 (7th Cir. 2000); Butera v. Apfel, 173 F.3d 1049, 1055 (7th Cir. 1999). Thus, the question upon judicial review of an ALJ's finding that a claimant is not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act is not whether the claimant is, in fact, disabled, but whether the ALJ "uses the correct legal standards and the decision is supported by substantial evidence." Roddy v. Astrue, 705 F.3d 631, 636 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing O'Connor-Spinner v. Astrue, 627 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2010); Prochaska v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 731, 734-35 (7th Cir. 2006); Barnett v. Barnhart, 381 F.3d 664, 668 (7th Cir. 2004)). "[I]f the Commissioner commits an ...


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