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Greathouse v. Colvin

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

February 6, 2015

WILLIAM H. GREATHOUSE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

ENTRY REVIEWING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION

JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, District Judge.

Plaintiff William Greathouse protectively applied for disability and disability insurance on May 13, 2011, and for supplemental security income on May 23, 2011, from the Social Security Administration ("SSA"), alleging a disability onset date of July 26, 2010. His applications were denied on August 3, 2011, and denied again after reconsideration on September 22, 2011. A hearing was held on October 29, 2012 in front of Administrative Law Judge Albert J. Velasquez (the "ALJ"), who subsequently determined that Mr. Greathouse was not entitled to receive benefits. [Filing No. 12-2 at 25-35.] The Appeals Council denied review, [Filing No. 12-2 at 8-10], making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's "final decision" subject to judicial review. Mr. Greathouse has filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), asking the Court to review his denial of benefits. [Filing No. 1.]

I.

BACKGROUND

Mr. Greathouse was forty-two years old as of his alleged onset date. [Filing No. 12-5 at 2.] Previously, he had worked as a janitor and a production line worker at a factory. [Filing No. 12-2 at 43-44.] Mr. Greathouse claims he has been disabled since July 26, 2010. [Filing No. 12-5 at 2.]

Using the five-step sequential evaluation set forth by the SSA in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520, the ALJ issued an opinion on November 14, 2012. [Filing No. 12-2 at 25-35.] The ALJ found as follows:

• At Step One of the analysis, the ALJ found that Mr. Greathouse had not engaged in substantial gainful activity[1] since the alleged disability onset date. [Filing No. 12-2 at 27.]
• At Step Two, the ALJ found that Mr. Greathouse suffered from the severe impairments of morbid obesity, degenerative disc disease with stenosis, coronary artery disease with stent, and hypertension. [Filing No. 12-2 at 27-28.]
• At Step Three, the ALJ found that Mr. Greathouse did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments. [Filing No. 12-2 at 28.] The ALJ concluded that Mr. Greathouse had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to "lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally [and] 10 pounds frequently. The claimant is able to stand and walk for 2 of 8 hours and sit for 6 of 8 hours. The work should require no more than occasional climbing of stairs and ramps and no climbing of ropes, ladders, or scaffolds and no more than occasional balancing, stooping, crouching, no kneeling or crawling provided the work allows the individual to alternate between a sitting or standing position for 1-2 minutes per hour. No overhead reaching. The claimant should avoid work at unprotected heights, around dangerous moving machinery, operating a motor vehicle, working around open flames, or large bodies of water. The work environment should avoid concentrated exposures to noxious fumes, gases, respiratory irritants, and extremes of temperature and humidity." [Filing No. 12-2 at 29-33.]
• At Step Four, the ALJ found that Mr. Greathouse was not able to perform his past relevant work. [Filing No. 12-2 at 33.]
• At Step Five, the ALJ found that considering Mr. Greathouse's age, education, work experience, and RFC, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that he can perform. Specifically, the ALJ found Mr. Greathouse would be capable of working as an assembler, handpackager, or inspector. [Filing No. 12-2 at 33-34.]

Based on these findings, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Greathouse was not disabled and was not entitled to disability benefits or supplemental security income. [Filing No. 12-2 at 34-35.] Mr. Greathouse requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's decision, but the Council denied that request on February 18, 2014. [Filing No. 12-2 at 8-10.] That decision is the final decision of the Commissioner for purposes of judicial review, and Mr. Greathouse subsequently sought relief from this Court. [Filing No. 1.]

II.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

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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