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White v. Colvin

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

May 1, 2015

MICHAEL W. WHITE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW

WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Michael W. White requests judicial review of the final decision of Defendant, Carolyn W. Colvin, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"), denying Mr. White'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. White protectively filed for SSI on March 28, 2011, alleging he became disabled on February 15, 2011. Mr. White's application was denied initially on July 5, 2011, and again upon reconsideration on September 15, 2011. Following the denial upon reconsideration, Mr. White requested and received a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). A hearing, during which Mr. White was represented by counsel, was held before ALJ Daniel J. Mages on January 22, 2013.[1] The ALJ issued his decision denying Mr. White's claim on February 11, 2013, and the Appeals Council denied his request for review on February 12, 2014. After the Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision, Mr. White 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 twelvemonth 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 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 her decision; while he "is not required to address every piece of evidence or testimony, " he must "provide some glimpse into [his] reasoning... [and] build an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to [his] conclusion." Dixon, 270 F.3d at 1176.

III. THE ALJ'S DECISION

The ALJ determined at step one that Mr. White had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 28, 2011, the application date. At steps two and three, the ALJ concluded that Mr. White had the severe impairments of "cirrhosis of the liver, an adjustment disorder, anxiety, an intermittent explosive disorder, and substance abuse, " 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. White had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work defined as follows:

Sitting six hours during an eight-hour workday; standing and walking four hours during an eight-hour workday; lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; occasionally climbing ramps and stairs; balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching and crawling; no climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds; simple routine tasks with the ability to attend, concentrate and persist for two hours at a time; and no more than superficial interaction with the public, coworkers or supervisors.

Id. at 19. Given that RFC, the ALJ determined that he could not perform any of his past relevant work. Finally, at step five the ALJ determined that Mr. White could perform a range of work that exists in the national economy, including work as a hand packer, equipment cleaner, and stock clerk. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Mr. White was not disabled as defined by the Act.

IV. EVIDENCE OF RECORD

The medical evidence of record is aptly set forth in Mr. White's brief (Dkt. No. 14) and need not be recited here. Specific facts are set forth in the ...


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