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Walker v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

September 12, 2016

RANDY E. WALKER, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge

         Plaintiff Randy E. Walker requests judicial review of the partially favorable decision by Defendant Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”), regarding his application for a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under the Social Security Act (“the Act”). The Court rules as follows.


         Walker filed his application for a period of disability and DIB on January 24, 2012, alleging disability beginning August 14, 2011, due to extensive injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident. His application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, whereupon he requested and was granted a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). Walker was represented by counsel at the hearing, which was held on October 22, 2013, before ALJ Lee Lewin. Walker, a medical expert, and a vocational expert testified at the hearing. Thereafter, on November 18, 2013, the ALJ rendered her decision in which she concluded that Walker had been disabled as defined by the Act for a closed period from August 14, 2011, to August 28, 2012, but that he was not disabled thereafter. After the Appeals Council denied Walker's request for review of the ALJ's decision, he filed this timely action for judicial review.


         The relevant evidence of record is amply set forth in the parties' briefs and the ALJ's decision and need not be repeated here.


         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 that 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 her 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. 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 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.


         The ALJ found at step one that Walker had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date of August 14, 2011. At steps two and three, the ALJ found that Walker had the severe impairments of status post multiple fractures and surgeries and chronic pain syndrome, and that his impairments medically equaled Listing 1.06B for the period of August 14, 2011, through August 28, 2012, but not thereafter. At step four, the ALJ concluded that beginning on August 29, 2012, Walker had the same severe impairments, but that he had experienced medical improvement such that he no longer met or equaled any listing and he had

the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except that he can stand one to two hours at a time and sit one to one and a half hours at a time. He can frequently balance, occasionally kneel, stoop, crouch, crawl, and climb ramps and stairs but he can never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. He can frequently handle with the left upper extremity. He should avoid concentrated exposure to wetness and hazards including dangerous moving machinery, unprotected heights and slippery wet or uneven terrain.

Record at 23-24. Given this RFC, the ALJ determined that Walker was unable to perform any of his past relevant work. At step five, the ALJ found that there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Walker could perform, including small parts assembler, labeler, and mail clerk. Accordingly, the ALJ ...

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