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Hamblin v. Colvin

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

June 9, 2015

DOUGLAS HAMBLIN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW

WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Douglas Hamblin requests judicial review of the final decision of the Defendant, Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("the Commissioner"), denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act ("the Act"). The Court, having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, rules as follows.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Douglas Hamblin protectively filed for DIB on March 16, 2011, alleging he became disabled on October 1, 2010, primarily due to attention deficit disorder, depression, a learning disability, fatigue, high blood pressure, and bowel problems. His application was denied initially on November 1, 2010, and again upon reconsideration on September 6, 2011. Following the denial upon reconsideration, Mr. Hamblin requested and received a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). A live hearing, during which Mr. Hamblin was represented by counsel, was held before ALJ Ronald Jordan on January 29, 2013. The ALJ issued his decision denying Mr. Hamblin's application on February 20, 2013, and the Appeals Council denied Mr. Hamblin's request for review on May 23, 2014. After the Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision, Mr. Hamblin 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. § 404.1520(b). 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. § 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 his past relevant work, he 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, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(g).

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. 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." Dixon, 270 F.3d at 1176.

III. BACKGROUND

The evidence of record is aptly set forth in the parties' briefs and need not be recited here. Specific facts are set forth in the discussion section below where relevant.

IV. THE ALJ'S DECISION

The ALJ determined at step one that Mr. Hamblin had not engaged in substantial gainful activity at any time material to his decision. At steps two and three, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Hamblin had the severe impairments of "borderline intellectual functioning, depression, and anxiety, " R. at 22, 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. Hamblin had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to "perform a full range of work at all exertion levels, but with the following non-exertional limitations: the claimant is limited to work involving only simple, repetitive tasks." Id. at 24. Given that RFC, the ALJ determined that Mr. Hamblin could perform his past relevant work as a packer. Alternatively, at step five the ALJ determined that Mr. Hamblin could also perform a range of unskilled work that exists in the local and national economy, including a bagger/cart pusher, a janitor, and a grounds keeper. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Hamblin was not disabled as defined by the Act.

V. DISCUSSION

In his brief in support of his Complaint, Mr. Hamblin alleges the ALJ: 1) erred in rejecting the opinions of his treating physician; and 2) erred in his Step 5 ...


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