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Boyd v. Colvin

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

August 26, 2016

RONALD L. BOYD, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.


          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge

         Plaintiff Ronald L. Boyd requests judicial review of the final decision of the Defendant, Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”), denying Boyd's application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act. The Court, having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, rules as follows.


         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).[1] 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 twelve-month 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 Administrative Law Judge (“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 her 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 her analysis of the evidence in her decision; while she “is not required to address every piece of evidence or testimony, ” she must “provide some glimpse into her reasoning . . . [and] build an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to her conclusion.” Dixon, 270 F.3d at 1176.


         Boyd protectively filed for DIB and SSI on August 24, 2012, alleging that he became disabled on May 2, 2012, due to osteoarthritis in the bilateral knees, degenerative joint disease, and spinal arthralgias. Boyd was born on March 17, 1970, and he was forty-two years old on the alleged disability onset date. Boyd has a ninth-grade education and has past relevant work experience as a carpenter and laminator.

         Boyd's application was denied initially on October 31, 2012, and upon reconsideration on February 14, 2013. Thereafter, Boyd requested and received a hearing in front of an ALJ. A video hearing, during which Boyd was represented by counsel, was held by ALJ Mary F. Withum on November 12, 2013. The ALJ issued her decision denying Boyd's claim on February 20, 2014; the appeals council denied Boyd's request for review on June 19, 2015. Boyd then filed this timely appeal.


         The ALJ determined that Boyd met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through June 30, 2016. The ALJ determined at step one that Boyd had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 2, 2012, the alleged onset date. At steps two and three, the ALJ concluded that Boyd had the severe impairments of “osteoarthritis bilateral knees, degenerative joint disease, and spinal anthralgias, ” Record at 18, but that his impairments, singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment. At step four, the ALJ determined that Boyd had the following Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”):

I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasional crouching, kneeling, and crawling; frequent overhead reaching; limited to jobs which can be performed while using a hand held assistive device required at all times when walking; avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold; avoid all exposure to unprotected heights.

Id. at 19. Given this RFC, the ALJ determined that Boyd was unable to perform any past relevant work. The ALJ found that transferability of job skills was not material to the determination of disability because the Medical-Vocation Rules supported a finding that Boyd was not disabled. The ALJ found that, considering Boyd's age, education, work experience, and RFC, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that he can perform. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Boyd was not disabled as defined by the Act.

         IV. EVIDE ...

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