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Simcoe v. Colvin

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

June 29, 2015

CHRISTOPHER S. SIMCOE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Acting Commissioner of SSA, Defendant.

ORDER OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS TO THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

SARAH EVANS BARKER, District Judge.

This is an action for judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") finding Plaintiff Christopher Simcoe not entitled to Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423(d), & 1382c(a)(3). Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI on August 23, 2011, alleging an onset of disability on March 12, 2009. R. at 18. Plaintiff's applications were denied initially on October 11, 2011 and on reconsideration on December 19, 2011. Id. Plaintiff requested a hearing, which occurred before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Ronald Jordan on April 11, 2013. Id. at 35; Docket No. 13. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not been disabled at any time from the alleged date of onset through the ALJ's May 16, 2013 decision. Id. at 29. After the Appeals Council denied his request for review on July 12, 2014, the Commissioner's decision became final, and Plaintiff timely exercised his right to judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). This case was referred for consideration to Magistrate Judge Dinsmore, who on April 3, 2015 issued a Report and Recommendation that the Commissioner's decision be upheld because it was supported by substantial evidence and was otherwise in accord with the law. R&R at 21; Docket No. 22. This cause is now before the Court on Plaintiff's Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation.

Standard of Review

We review the Commissioner's denial of benefits to determine whether it was supported by substantial evidence or is the result of an error of law. Rice v. Barnhart, 384 F.3d 363, 368-69 (7th Cir. 2004); Lopez ex rel. Lopez v. Barnhart, 336 F.3d 535, 539 (7th Cir. 2003). "Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Dixon v. Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1176 (7th Cir. 2001). In our review of the ALJ's decision, we will not "reweigh evidence, resolve conflicts, decide questions of credibility, or substitute [our] own judgment for that of the Commissioner." Lopez, 336 F.3d at 539. However, the ALJ's decision must be based upon consideration of "all the relevant evidence, " without ignoring probative factors. Herron v. Shalala, 19 F.3d 329, 333 (7th Cir. 1994). In other words, the ALJ must "build an accurate and logical bridge" from the evidence in the record to his or her final conclusion. Dixon, 270 F.3d at 1176. We confine the scope of our review to the rationale offered by the ALJ. See SEC v. Chenery Corp., 318 U.S. 80, 93-95 (1943); Tumminaro v. Astrue, 671 F.3d 629, 632 (7th Cir. 2011).

When a party raises specific objections to elements of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the district court reviews those elements de novo, determining for itself whether the Commissioner's decision as to those issues is supported by substantial evidence or was the result of an error of law. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 72(b). The district court "makes the ultimate decision to adopt, reject, or modify" the report and recommendation, and it need not accept any portion as binding; the court may, however, defer to those conclusions of the report and recommendation to which timely objections have not been raised by a party. See Schur v. L.A. Weight Loss Ctrs., Inc., 577 F.3d 752, 759-761 (7th Cir. 2009).

Discussion

Plaintiff alleged in his DIB and SSI application that he had an onset of disability on March 12, 2009. R. at 18. He was 39 years old at the time of the alleged onset, and had past work experience as a retail store assistant manager, as a restraint assistant manager, and as a warehouse truck loader. Id. at 40-42. He claimed disability because of vascular disease in his left leg, a fracture in his right hand, depression, obesity, and a cervical neck injury. Id. at 20-22. The ALJ determined, with the help of a vocational expert ("VE"), that Plaintiff had not been under a disability at any time from the alleged date of onset through the ALJ's May 16, 2013 decision. Id. at 29.

At Step One of his five-step analysis of the claim, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged disability onset date. Id. at 20. At Step Two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from two severe impairments: vascular disease in his left leg and obesity. Id. at 21-22. At Step Three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled a "listed impairment" under 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Id. at 22. Specifically, the ALJ considered and rejected Listing 4.11 (chronic venous insufficiency), and he found that there was no evidence that Plaintiff's obesity, for which there is no individual listing, "considered alone or in combination with all other impairments, meets or medically equals any listing." Id. At Step Four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform sedentary work with additional limitations:

[S]edentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except: lift, carry, push, or pull ten pounds occasionally and five pounds frequently; stand and walk for two hours in an eight hour workday day at intervals of five or ten minutes spread evenly throughout the day; sit for six hours during an eight hour workday, but must have the opportunity to stand at his work station for up to five minutes each hour at his discretion; occasionally stoop, balance, crouch, crawl, kneel, and climb stairs or ramps; no work around hazards such as unprotected heights or unguarded, dangerous moving machinery; no climbing ladders, scaffolds, or ropes; no walking on wet or uneven surfaces.

Id. at 22. Then the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's RFC prevented him from performing any of his past relevant work. Id. at 28. At Step Five, the ALJ found that "[t]ransferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability" for a claimant with Plaintiff's profile. Id. at 28-29. He then consulted a VE, who testified that a hypothetical person of Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, could perform jobs such as interviewer (with 500 positions available regionally and 32, 000 nationwide), check cashier (10, 000 regionally and 600, 000 nationwide), and telemarketer (5, 000 regionally and 340, 000 nationwide). Id. The ALJ determined, based on the VE testimony, that these jobs existed in significant numbers in the regional and national economy, leading him to the conclusion that Plaintiff was not disabled. Id. at 29. Magistrate Judge Dinsmore, in his Report and Recommendation, affirmed the ALJ report, concluding that it was supported by substantial evidence. R&R at 21-22.

Plaintiff raises two objections to the Report and Recommendation. First, he alleges that Magistrate Judge Dinsmore erred in rejecting his challenge to the ALJ's finding that transferability of job skills was not material. See Pl.'s Obj. 1-2; Docket No. 22 at 8; R&R at 8. Second, he objects to the Magistrate Judge's determination that Plaintiff could perform "significant numbers" of jobs in the regional and national economy. See Pl.'s Obj. 2-3; R&R at 8-10.

I. Transferability

Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in determining that "transferability is not an issue[, ]" and in concluding that jobs as a check cashier and telemarketer, which are classified as "semi-skilled, " are available to Plaintiff. Pl.'s Obj. 1; R. at 28-29.

The Dictionary of Occupational Titles defines check cashier and telemarketer as "semi-skilled" jobs. See R. at 63. As Plaintiff correctly notes, the ALJ did not make any specific finding about whether Plaintiff's past work had given him skills that transfer over to check cashier and telemarketer positions. Instead, the ALJ determined that "[t]ransferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a ...


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