United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
LARAE D. SKIRVIN, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW
WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, District Judge.
Plaintiff Larae D. Skirvin requests judicial review of the final decision of Defendant, Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"), denying Ms. Skirvin's application for Supplemental Social Security Income ("SSI") 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
On March 3, 2010, an application for SSI was filed on behalf of Ms. Skirvin, who was then a child under the age of eighteen. The claim was denied initially on June 29, 2010, and again upon reconsideration on January 21, 2011. Following the denial upon reconsideration, a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") on June 7, 2012. ALJ T. Whitaker issued her decision denying Ms. Skirvin's claim on August 28, 2012,  and the Appeals Council denied her request for review on September 6, 2013. After the Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision, Ms. Skirvin filed this timely appeal.
II. APPLICABLE STANDARD
To be eligible for SSI, a claimant must meet the requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 423. Pursuant to that statute, "disability" means the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The standard is a stringent one. The Act does not contemplate degrees of disability or allow for an award based on partial disability. See Stephens v. Heckler, 766 F.2d 284, 285 (7th Cir. 1985).
In determining whether a claimant under the age of eighteen is disabled, the Commissioner employs a three-step sequential analysis. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a). At step one, if the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, she is not disabled, despite her medical condition. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(b). At step two, if the claimant does not have a "severe" impairment or a combination of impairments that is "severe, " she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(c). At step three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments meets, medically equals, or functionally equals any impairment that appears in the Listing of Impairments, codified at 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, App. 1. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(d). If the claimant has an impairment or combination of impairments that meets, medically equals, or functionally equals the listings, and meets the twelve-month duration requirement, the claimant is deemed disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.906.
In determining whether an impairment functionally equals the listings, the ALJ must examine the following domains: (1) acquiring and using information; (2) attending and completing tasks; (3) interacting and relating with others; (4) moving about and manipulating objects; (5) caring for oneself; and (6) health and physical well-being. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(1)(i)-(vi). The claimant's impairment or combination of impairments must result in "marked" limitations in two or more domains or an "extreme" limitation in one domain. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a). A "marked" limitation is one that seriously interferes with the claimant's ability to sustain and complete activities. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(2)(i). An "extreme" limitation is one that very seriously interferes with the claimant's ability to sustain and complete activities. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924a(e)(3)(i).
In determining whether a claimant over the age of eighteen is disabled, the Commissioner employs a five-step sequential analysis. At step one, if the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity she is not disabled, despite her 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 her ability to perform basic work activities), she 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 her past relevant work, she 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, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920 (a)(4)(v).
On review, 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 the 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 "need not evaluate in writing every piece of testimony and evidence submitted." Carlson v. Shalala, 999 F.2d 180, 181 (7th Cir. 1993). Rather, the ALJ is required to articulate only a minimal, but legitimate, justification for his 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 his analysis of the evidence in his 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 1177.
III. THE ALJ'S DECISION
At step one, the ALJ found that Ms. Skirvin had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 3, 2010, the application date. At step two, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Skirvin had the following severe impairments: blindness in the left eye with anisometropia and amblyopia; a history of non-epileptic seizures (pseudo-seizures); incontinentia pigmenti; leg length discrepancy; oppositional/defiant disorder; obsessive compulsive disorder; depression; bipolar disorder; learning disability in mathematics and reading; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; mood disorder not otherwise specified; hip dysplasia and chronic hip pain and greater trochanteric bursitis; left foot deformity/internal foot progression angle; communications disorder/speech language delays; spells; asthma and history of bronchiectasis; short stature; history of chronic abdominal pain and constipation; and borderline intellectual functioning. At step three, the ALJ determined that Ms. Skirvin did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met, medically equaled, or functionally equaled a listed impairment. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Skirvin was not disabled prior to attaining age eighteen.
The ALJ then considered whether Ms. Skirvin had been disabled since she attained the age of eighteen. The ALJ noted that Ms. Skirvin had not developed any new impairments since attaining the age of eighteen, but that she continued to have severe impairments. R. at 34. At step four, the ALJ determined that Ms. Skirvin had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work with certain other physical and mental restrictions. The ALJ noted that Ms. Skirvin had no past relevant work; however, at step five the ALJ determined that Ms. Skirvin could perform a range of work that exists in the national economy, including work as a bus person. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Skirvin was not disabled as defined by the Act since attaining the age of eighteen.
IV. EVIDENCE OF RECORD
The medical evidence of record is aptly set forth in Ms. Skirvin's brief (Dkt. No. 19) and need not be recited here. Specific facts are set forth in the ...