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Squires v. Colvin

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

May 15, 2015

KELLY SQUIRES, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW

WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Kelly Squires requests judicial review of the final decision of the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the "Commissioner"), denying her applications for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Social Security Income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (the "Act"). The Court now rules as follows.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Squires filed her applications for DIB and SSI on December 7, 2010, alleging disability beginning September 1, 2009, due, in large part, to back pain and pain associated with fibromyalgia. Squires' applications were initially denied on February 9, 2011, and again upon reconsideration on April 14, 2011. Thereafter, Squires requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). The hearing was held on May 2, 2012, before ALJ James R. Norris in Indianapolis, Indiana. During the hearing, Alan Kravitz, M.D., testified as a medical expert and Robert Barber testified as a vocational expert. On May 31, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision denying Squires' applications for benefits. The Appeals Council upheld the ALJ's decision and denied a request for review on June 22, 2013. This action for judicial review ensued.

II. EVIDENCE OF RECORD

The evidence of record is well documented in the ALJ's decision and need not be recited here. Facts relevant to the Plaintiff's argument are noted in the discussion section below.

III. 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 her physical or mental limitations prevent her from doing not only her previous work, but any other kind of gainful employment that exists in the national economy, considering her 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, she is not disabled, despite her medical condition and other factors. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b).[1] 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. § 404.1520(c). 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. § 404.1520(d). At step four, if the claimant is able to perform her past relevant work, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f). At step five, if the claimant can perform any other work in the national economy, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(g).

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 this 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 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 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." Id.

IV. THE ALJ'S DECISION

At step one, the ALJ found that Squires had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 1, 2009, her alleged onset date. At step two, the ALJ concluded that Squires suffered from the following severe impairments: fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, and chondromalacia of the patella. At step three, the ALJ determined that Squires' severe impairments did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment. At step four, the ALJ concluded that Squires had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform the full range of medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c). Given this RFC, the ALJ determined at step five that Squires was capable of performing her past relevant work as a warehouse worker and customer service clerk. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Squires was not disabled as defined by the Act from September 1, 2009, through the date of his decision.

V. DISCUSSION

Squires advances only one objection to the ...


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