Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Garcia v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

August 23, 2016

CARLOS GARCIA, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          THERESA L. SPRINGMANN UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         The Plaintiff, Carlos Garcia, seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying his application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB). On December 21, 2011, the Plaintiff protectively filed applications for SSI and DIB, alleging disability beginning on December 13, 2011. An ALJ held a hearing on February 26, 2013, at which the Plaintiff, who was represented by an attorney, and a vocational expert both testified. On August 15, 2013, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff has the severe impairment of right knee osteoarthritis, but ultimately concluded that the Plaintiff is not disabled. The Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ decision, and on October 20, 2014, the Appeals Council denied the Plaintiff's request for review. On December 22, 2014, the Plaintiff initiated this civil action for judicial review of the Commissioner’s final decision.

         BACKGROUND

         A. The Plaintiff’s Testimony

         The Plaintiff is 56 years old and lives alone. He has a high school diploma, and his past relevant work is as a laboratory sample carrier and warehouse worker.

         At the time of the ALJ hearing on February 26, 2013, the Plaintiff was employed part-time as a cleaner for Reliable Cleaning Service.[1] He testified to working two hours per day and ten hours per week, cleaning a designated area of an office building. Due to pain in his knee-for which he had surgery in August 2011 and wears a brace-the Plaintiff said he cannot work more than a two-hour shift without sitting down.[2] The Plaintiff also said he cannot stand more than 15 to 20 minutes at one time or lift more than “about 15 pounds” (Tr. 45), and that he uses a cane to assist with walking and to prevent falls.

         The Plaintiff also described his experience with “anxiety attacks, ” which he said were typically generated by nervousness or the feeling of being “closed in.” (Tr. 45.) The Plaintiff said his anxiety attacks occur as often as “once a day” or “twice a week, ” depending on the circumstances. (R. 47.) According to the Plaintiff, his anxiety prevents him from driving. (See Tr. 50 (“[I don’t drive b]ecause I’m afraid that I . . . might get one of those anxiety attacks and I might hit something or crash.”).)

         B. The Vocational Expert’s Testimony

         At the hearing, the vocational expert (VE) testified that an individual of the Plaintiff’s age, education, and work experience who (1) can occasionally lift and carry up to 20 pounds, and frequently lift up to 10 pounds; (2) can stand and/or walk up to 6 hours; (3) can sit for up to 6 hours; (4) cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; and (5) can occasionally climb ramps or stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl, could perform the Plaintiff’s past relevant work as a laboratory sample carrier. The VE opined that such an individual, even with the additional requirement of needing the ability to sit or stand at will, could perform light work as a repack-room worker, storage facility rental clerk, and laundry worker. However, needing a cane for standing would eliminate the repack-room worker and laundry worker positions.

         C. ALJ Decision (Five-Step Evaluation)

         The Social Security regulations set forth a five-step sequential evaluation process to be used in determining whether the claimant has established a disability. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(I)-(v); 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A) (defining a disability under the Social Security Act as being unable “to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months”); §423(d)(2)(A) (An applicant must show that his “impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy.”) The first step is to determine whether the claimant is presently engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA). Here, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff was not engaged in SGA, so she moved on to the second step, which is to determine whether the claimant had a “severe” impairment or combination of impairments. An impairment is “severe” if it significantly limits the claimant’s physical or mental ability to do basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1521(a). The ALJ determined that the Plaintiff has the severe impairment of right knee osteoarthritis.

         At step three, the ALJ concluded that the Plaintiff did not have an impairment, or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the impairments listed by the Administration as being so severe that it presumptively precludes SGA. See 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1.

         Because the Plaintiff’s impairment was found not to meet or equal a listed impairment, the ALJ was required, at step four, to determine the Plaintiff’s residual functional capacity (RFC). RFC is an assessment of the claimant’s ability to perform sustained work-related physical and mental activities in light of his impairments. SSR 96-8p. The relevant mental work activities include understanding, remembering, and carrying out instructions; responding appropriately to supervision and co-workers; and handling work pressures in a work setting. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(c). The ALJ concluded that the Plaintiff had the RFC to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b). Specifically, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff is able to push or pull without limitations; occasionally lift and carry up to 20 pounds, and frequently lift up to 10 pounds; stand and/or walk up to 6 hours in an 8-hour workday; and sit for up to 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. However, the ALJ added that the Plaintiff cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and can occasionally climb ramps or stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl.

         At the final step of the evaluation, the ALJ determined that, in light of the Plaintiff’s age, education, work experience, and RFC, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that he could perform.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The decision of the ALJ is the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denies a request for review. Liskowitz v. Astrue, 559 F.3d 736, 739 (7th Cir. 2009). A court will affirm the Commissioner’s findings of fact and denial of disability benefits if they are supported by substantial evidence. Craft v. Astrue, 539 F.3d 668, 673 (7th Cir. 2008). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). It must be “more than a scintilla but may be less than a preponderance.” Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d 836, 841 (7th Cir. 2007). Even if “reasonable minds could differ” about the disability status of the claimant, the court must affirm the Commissioner’s decision as long as it is adequately supported. Elder v. Astrue, 529 F.3d 408, 413 (7th Cir. 2008).

         It is the duty of the ALJ to weigh the evidence, resolve material conflicts, and make independent findings of fact, and dispose of the case accordingly. Perales, 402 U.S. at 399-400. In this substantial-evidence determination, the court considers the entire administrative record but does not reweigh evidence, resolve conflicts, decide questions of credibility, or substitute the court’s own judgment for that of the Commissioner. Lopez ex rel. Lopez v. Barnhart, 336 F.3d 535, 539 (7th Cir. 2003). Nevertheless, the court conducts a “critical review of the evidence” before affirming the Commissioner’s decision, and the decision cannot stand if it lacks evidentiary support or an inadequate discussion of the issues. Id.

         The ALJ is not required to address every piece of evidence or testimony presented, but the ALJ must provide a “logical bridge” between the evidence and the conclusions. Terry v. Astrue, 580 F.3d 471, 475 (7th Cir. 2009). If the Commissioner commits an error of law, remand is warranted without regard to the volume of ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.