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Stark v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

April 17, 2015

KATHY ANN STARK, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Kathy Stark seeks judicial review of the Defendant's decision to deny her social security disability benefits. Administrative Law Judge Yvonne Stam issued a decision unfavorable to Plaintiff on October 26, 2012. That decision became the final decision of the Defendant Commissioner of Social Security when the Social Security Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review in January 2014.

For the reasons discussed below, the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.

A. Overview of the Case

Plaintiff was 54 years old when she applied for disability benefits. She alleged that her disability began on October 27, 2009, and that her disability resulted from her back pain. She only had one type of past relevant work. From 1995 through 2009, she worked as a "car jockey" for a General Motors contractor.[1]

The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform light work, and that she could walk and stand for six out of eight hours in a work day and that she could also sit for six out eight hours in a workday. R. at 31. The vocational expert at the ALJ hearing testified that a person with Plaintiff's residual functional capacity could work as a driver. Relying on the VE's testimony, the ALJ found at step 4 of the sequential analysis that Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work; and that therefore, she was not disabled.

B. Standard of Review

This Court has the authority to review Social Security Act claim decisions under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Court will uphold an ALJ's decision if it is reached under the correct legal standard and supported by substantial evidence. Briscoe ex rel. Taylor 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." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). This Court will not reconsider facts, re-weigh the evidence, resolve conflicts in the evidence, decide questions of credibility, or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. Boiles v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 421, 425 (7th Cir. 2005). This Court will, however, ensure that the ALJ built an "accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to his conclusion so that, as a reviewing court, we may access the validity of the agency's ultimate findings and afford a claimant meaningful judicial review." Scott v. Barnhart, 297 F.3d 589, 595 (7th Cir. 2002).

C. Disability Standard

To qualify for disability benefits, the claimant must establish that she suffers from a disability. A disability is an "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The SSA established a five-step inquiry to evaluate whether a claimant qualifies for disability benefits. A successful claimant must show:

(1) she is not presently employed; (2) her impairment is severe; (3) her impairment is listed or equal to a listing in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1; (4) she is not able to perform her past relevant work; and (5) she is unable to perform any other work within the national and local economy.

Scheck v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 697, 699-700 (7th Cir. 2004).

An affirmative answer leads either to the next step or, on steps three and five, to a finding that the claimant is disabled. Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d 881, 886 (7th Cir. 2001). A negative answer at any point other than step three stops the inquiry and leads to a finding that the claimant is not disabled. Id. The burden of proof lies with the claimant at every step except the ...


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