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Bell v. Colvin

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

September 19, 2016

DERRICK E. BELL, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge.

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

         I.PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Mr. Bell filed for DIB and SSI on April 20, 2012, alleging he became disabled on December 1, 2010, due to degenerative disc disease. Mr. Bell's application was denied initially on February 10, 2012, and again upon reconsideration on September 20, 2012. Following the denial upon reconsideration, Mr. Bell requested and received a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). That hearing, during which Mr. Bell was represented by counsel, was held on September 12, 2013, before ALJ Belinda J. Brown. The ALJ issued her decision on December 19, 2013, denying Mr. Bell's claim. Mr. Bell requested review by the Appeals Council, and the Appeals Council upheld the hearing decision on March 30, 2015, and denied the request for review. Mr. Bell then filed this timely appeal.

         II. APPLICABLE STANDARD

         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. § 416.920(a)(4)(i).[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. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii). 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. § 416.920(a)(4)(iii). At step four, if the claimant is able to perform his past relevant work, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iv). At step five, if the claimant can perform any other work in the national economy, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(v).

         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., and 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) (citation omitted). 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, ” he must “provide some glimpse into [his] reasoning . . . [and] build an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to [his] conclusion.” Dixon, 270 F.3d at 1176 (citations omitted).

         III. ALJ BROWN'S DECISION

         ALJ Brown determined at step one that Mr. Bell had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 1, 2010, the alleged onset date. R. at 18. At steps two and three, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Bell had the severe impairment of degenerative disc disease. Id. At step four, the ALJ determined that Mr. Bell had the following residual functional capacity (“RFC”):

[H]e is able to sit for six hours in an eight-hour work day, stand for one hour in an eight-hour work day, and walk for one hour in an eight-hour work day. He can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ramps, stairs. He can never climb ladders or scaffolds.

         R. at 22. The ALJ also determined that Mr. Bell was unable to perform any past relevant work.

         R. at 23. Instead, she determined that Mr. Bell was able to perform a limited range of sedentary work, R. at 22, in positions existing in significant numbers in the national economy, R. at 24. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Bell was not disabled as defined by the Act.

         IV. EVIDE ...


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