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Holloway v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

April 28, 2015

Keiston R. Holloway, Plaintiff,
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

ENTRY REVIEWING THE COMMISSIONER’S DECISION

Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Judge

Plaintiff Keiston Holloway applied for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits from the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) on May 13, 2011, alleging a disability onset date of June 27, 1995. [Filing No. 11-5 at 2.] His application was denied initially on July 29, 2011, and after reconsideration on November 23, 2011. [Filing No. 11-2 at 39.] Administrative Law Judge James E. Craig (the “ALJ”) held a hearing on January 19, 2012, and issued a decision on March 28, 2013, concluding that Mr. Holloway was not entitled to receive benefits. [Filing No. 11-2 at 9-18.] The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ’s decision the “final decision” subject to judicial review. [Filing No. 11-2 at 2.] Mr. Holloway has filed this civil action pro se, asking the Court to review his denial of benefit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). [Filing No. 1.]

I.

Background

Mr. Holloway was forty-seven years old when he applied for disability benefits on May 13, 2011. [Filing No. 11-5 at 2.] Mr. Holloway’s previous work was as a medic in the United States Army, at a car dealership, and as a State of Indiana highway worker. [Filing No. 11-6 at 7.] He alleges a disability onset date of June 27, 1995. [Filing No. 11-6 at 2.] On his application, Mr.

Holloway listed various reasons for his alleged disability, including lower back problems, a neck injury, depression, and that he cannot sleep. [Filing No. 11-6 at 6.] He testified at the hearing before the ALJ that he is not receiving benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (the “VA”) but that he receives medical treatment at the VA every six months and that it provides his prescribed medication. [Filing No. 11-2 at 28-29; Filing No. 11-2 at 31.] Mr. Holloway also testified that he had surgery in 2003 to fuse a disc and insert pins, rods, and screws in his back. [Filing No. 11-2 at 29.]

II.

Standard of Review

“The Social Security Act authorizes payment of disability insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income to individuals with disabilities.” Barnhart v. Walton, 535 U.S. 212, 214 (2002). “The statutory definition of ‘disability’ has two parts. First, it requires a certain kind of inability, namely, an inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity. Second it requires an impairment, namely, a physical or mental impairment, which provides reason for the inability. The statute adds that the impairment must be one that has lasted or can be expected to last . . . not less than 12 months.” Id. at 217.

When an applicant appeals an adverse benefits decision, this Court’s role 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) whether the claimant is capable of performing work in the national economy.

Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted) (alterations in original). “If a claimant satisfies steps one, two, and three, [he] will automatically be found disabled. If a claimant satisfies steps one and two, but not three, then [he] must satisfy step four. Once step four is satisfied, the burden shifts to the SSA to establish that the claimant is capable of performing work in the national economy.” Knight v. Chater, 55 F.3d 309, 313 (7th Cir. 1995).

After Step Three, but before Step Four, the ALJ must determine a claimant’s RFC by evaluating “all limitations that arise from medically determinable impairments, even those that are not severe.” Villano v. Astrue, 556 F.3d 558, 563 (7th Cir. 2009). In doing so, the ALJ “may not dismiss a line of evidence contrary to the ruling.” Id. The ALJ uses the RFC at Step Four to determine whether the claimant can perform his own past relevant work and if not, at Step Five to determine whether the claimant can perform other work. See 20 C.F.R. ยง 416.920(e), (g). ...


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