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Adams Ex Rel. Adams v. Colvin

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

March 19, 2015

MONIQUE ADAMS ex rel. MICHAEL S. ADAMS, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, as Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ENTRY REVIEWING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION

JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, District Judge.

Michael S. Adams applied for Social Security disability benefits from the Social Security Administration ("SSA") on August 17, 2010, alleging a disability onset date of December 15, 1999. [Filing No. 18-2 at 27.] His application was denied initially on December 20, 2010, and on reconsideration on March 29, 2011. [Filing No. 18-2 at 27.] A hearing was held on March 23, 2012, before Administrative Law Judge James R. Norris (the "ALJ"), who issued a decision on April 13, 2012, determining that Mr. Adams was not entitled to receive disability benefits. [Filing No. 18-2 at 27-35.] The Appeals Council denied review on June 4, 2013, [Filing No. 18-2 at 12], making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's "final decision" subject to judicial review. Schmidt v. Astrue, 496 F.3d 833, 841 (7th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted).

On December 9, 2013, Mr. Adams filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), requesting that this Court review his denial of disability benefits. [Filing No. 1 at 1.] Mr. Adams died on February 28, 2014. [Filing No. 16 at 1.] The Court granted a motion to substitute Mr. Adams' daughter, Monique Adams, as the proper party to this action, since she may be entitled to any award of past-due benefits. [Filing No. 16; Filing No. 20.]

I.

BACKGROUND

Mr. Adams was fifty-five years old when he applied for disability benefits with the SSA, alleging a disability onset date of December 15, 1999. [Filing No. 18-5 at 2.] Prior to his alleged disability onset date, Mr. Adams was a medical equipment installer/repairer, installing computerized axial tomography scanners. [Filing No. 18-2 at 54-56.] It is undisputed that Mr. Adams' date last insured ("DLI") was December 31, 2002. [Filing No. 18-2 at 35; Filing No. 22 at 1; Filing No. 27 at 3.] Mr. Adams engaged in at least some work in construction and home remodeling after that date. [Filing No. 19-7 at 39 (medical note from July 2007); Filing No. 19-9 at 8 (medical note from September 2010).]

On March 23, 2012, the ALJ held a hearing that was limited to the issue of whether or not Mr. Adams was disabled prior to his DLI of December 31, 2002. [Filing No. 18-2 at 43.] Using the five-step sequential evaluation set forth by the SSA in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4), the ALJ issued an opinion on April 13, 2012, determining that Mr. Adams was not entitled to receive disability benefits. [Filing No. 18-2 at 27-35.] The ALJ found as follows:

• At Step One of the analysis, the ALJ found that Mr. Adams last met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act on December 31, 2002. [Filing No. 18-2 at 29.] The ALJ further found that Ms. Adams had not engaged in substantial gainful activity[1] after the alleged disability onset date. [Filing No. 18-2 at 29.]
• At Step Two of the analysis, the ALJ found that Mr. Adams suffered from the following severe impairment: degenerative disk disease of the cervical spine. [Filing No. 18-2 at 30.]
• At Step Three of the analysis, the ALJ found that Mr. Adams did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments. [Filing No. 18-2 at 30.]
• After Step Three but before Step Four, the ALJ concluded that through the date of last insured, Mr. Adams had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work, [2] except Mr. Adams was unable to climb scaffolds. [Filing No. 18-2 at 30.] Mr. Adams was also found to be limited by only occasionally being able to climb ramps or stairs, stoop, balance, crouch, crawl, or kneel. [Filing No. 18-2 at 30.] Lastly, Mr. Adams was found to be unable to reach above shoulder level with his left upper extremity or extend the cervical spine to look up on more than an occasional basis. [Filing No. 18-2 at 30.]
• At Step Four of the analysis, the ALJ found that Mr. Adams was unable to perform any past relevant work. [Filing No. 18-2 at 33.]
• At Step Five of the analysis, the ALJ found that considering Mr. Adams' age, education, work experience, and RFC, there are other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that he could perform, such as cashier, office machine operator, or mail clerk. [Filing No. 18-2 at 34.]
• Based on these findings, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Adams was not disabled and thus not entitled to the requested disability ...

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