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Youngblood v. Colvin

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

February 17, 2015

HENRY M. YOUNGBLOOD, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW

WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Henry Youngblood requests judicial review of the final decision of Defendant, Carolyn W. Colvin, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"), denying Mr. Youngblood's application for Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act"). The Court, having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, now rules as follows.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Mr. Youngblood filed for SSI on April 6, 2011, alleging he became disabled on March 29, 2011. Mr. Youngblood's application was denied initially on September 22, 2011, and again upon reconsideration on December 29, 2011. Following the denial upon reconsideration, Mr. Youngblood requested and received a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). A hearing was held before ALJ Blanca B. de la Torre on October 15, 2012. The ALJ issued her decision denying Mr. Youngblood's claim on November 29, 2012, and the Appeals Council denied his request for review on December 18, 2012. After the Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision, Mr. Youngblood filed this timely appeal.

II. APPLICABLE STANDARD

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. § 416.920(a)(4)(i). 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. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii). 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. § 416.920(a)(4)(iii). At step four, if the claimant is able to perform his past relevant work, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iv). At step five, if the claimant can perform any other work in the national economy, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(v).

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. Binion v. Chater, 108 F.3d 780, 782 (7th Cir. 1997). 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 "[s]he 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.

III. THE ALJ'S DECISION

The ALJ determined at step one that Mr. Youngblood had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 6, 2011, the application date. At steps two and three, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Youngblood had the severe impairments of "obesity; hypertension; residuals of myocardial infarction with atrial fibrillation; residuals of cerebral vascular accident; meralgia paresthetica of the right thigh; obstructive sleep apnea; cocaine and alcohol abuse, in remission since April 2011; and depression, " R. at 12, but that his impairments, singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment. At step four, the ALJ determined that Mr. Youngblood had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work with certain limitations. The ALJ noted that Mr. Youngblood had no past relevant work; however, at step five the ALJ determined that Mr. Youngblood could perform a range of work that exists in the national economy, including work as an apparel sorter, packaging line worker, and housekeeper. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Youngblood was not disabled as defined by the Act.

IV. EVIDENCE OF RECORD

The medical evidence of record is aptly set forth in Mr. Youngblood's brief (Dkt. No. 17) and need not be recited here. Specific facts are set forth in the discussion section below where relevant.

V. DISCUSSION

In his brief in support of his Complaint, Mr. Youngblood argues that the ALJ: 1) erred at Step Three in determining that he was not disabled due to his combined stroke-brain injury, anxiety, and major depression; 2) erred in failing to call a medical advisor to testify as to medical equivalency; 3) erred in her credibility determination; and 4) erred at Step Five ...


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