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Hill v. Colvin

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

August 29, 2016

GARY A. HILL, SR., Plaintiff,


          Tim A. Baker United States Magistrate Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Gary Hill appeals the Commissioner's denial of his claim for disability benefits. Hill asserts three issues on appeal: (1) whether substantial evidence supports the Administrative Law Judge's determination that Hill did not meet listing 12.05B or 12.05C; (2) whether the ALJ committed reversible error by failing to summon a psychologist to testify at the hearing; and (3) whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's step five determination that Hill was not disabled. For the reasons set forth below, Hill's brief in support of appeal [Filing No. 28] is denied.

         II. Background

         Hill filed for disability benefits alleging an onset date of August 1, 2010. This date falls within a previously adjudicated period, so the ALJ adjusted the onset date to May 11, 2011. Hill's claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration. On April 3, 2013, Hill testified at a hearing before the ALJ. At the hearing, Hill's counsel requested a supplemental hearing with a medical expert. However, the ALJ denied this request because she determined that it was not supported by good cause. The ALJ denied Hill's claim by written decision on June 5, 2014.

         At step one, the ALJ found that Hill has not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the relevant time period. [Filing No. 13-2, at ECF p. 15.] At step two, the ALJ found Hill has the following severe impairments: disorders of the left lower extremity, including degenerative joint disease and history of fracture and skin graft; leg length discrepancy; borderline intellectual functioning; depressive disorder; and a history of alcohol abuse. Id. At step three, the ALJ found that Hill does not meet or medically equal any relevant listing. Id. At step four, the ALJ assigned Hill an RFC that limited him to medium work with the following limitations:

The claimant can lift and carry fifty (50) pounds occasionally and twenty-five (25) pounds frequently, can stand and walk each for six (6) hours and can sit six (6) hours during an eight-hour workday; the claimant cannot operate foot controls with the left lower extremity; the claimant can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ramps or stairs, but he must never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; the claimant must have no exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights and dangerous machinery; and the claimant is limited to work consisting of simple, routine, repetitive tasks.

         [Filing No. 13-2, at ECF p. 18.] Based on this RFC, the ALJ found that Hill could perform past relevant work as a material handler. [Filing No. 13-2, at ECF p. 23.] Rather than conclude at step four, the ALJ went on the step five. The ALJ questioned a vocational expert about other jobs Hill could perform, given his age, education, work experience, and RFC. Id. The VE testified that Hill could work as a hospital cleaner, food service worker, and order filler. [Filing No. 13-2, at ECF p. 24.] Thus, the ALJ concluded Hill was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's opinion final. Hill timely appealed to this Court.

         III. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         The Court must uphold the ALJ's decision if substantial evidence supports her findings. Terry v. Astrue, 580 F.3d 471, 475 (7th Cir. 2009). “The substantial evidence standard requires no more than such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Moore v. Colvin, 743 F.3d 1118, 1120 (7th Cir. 2014). The ALJ is obliged to consider all relevant medical evidence and cannot simply cherry-pick facts that support a finding of nondisability while ignoring evidence that points to a disability finding. Denton v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 419, 425 (7th Cir. 2010). If evidence contradicts the ALJ's conclusions, the ALJ must confront that evidence and explain why it was rejected. Moore, 743 F.3d at 1123. The ALJ, however, need not mention every piece of evidence, so long as she builds a logical bridge from the evidence to her conclusion. Pepper v. Colvin, 712 F.3d 351, 362 (7th Cir. 2013).

         B. Intellectual Disability

         Hill argues substantial evidence does not support the ALJ's determination that he does not meet Listing 12.05B or 12.05C (intellectual disability). Hill asserts that the ALJ erroneously concluded the record lacks evidence that Hill has mental retardation or deficits in adaptive functioning that initially manifested during the development period. The Court disagrees.

         At step three, the ALJ must determine whether any impairment meets or medically equals a listing from the Listing of Impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d);Patterson v. Colvin, No. 1:14-CV-00468-SEB, 2015 WL 898186, at *7 (S.D. Ind Mar. 2, 2015). The claimant has the burden of showing that his impairments meet a listing by showing that his impairment satisfies all the criteria specified in the listing. Patterson, 2015 WL 898186, at *7 (citing Ribaudo v. Barnhart, 458 F.3d 580, 583 (7th Cir. 2006). The ALJ must then discuss the listing by name and ...

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