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Steadmon v. Colvin

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

September 23, 2016

MONYE S. STEADMON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge

         Plaintiff Monye S. Steadmon requests judicial review of the decision of Defendant Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”), denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under the Social Security Act (“the Act”). The Court rules as follows.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Steadmon filed his applications for DIB and SSI in October 2011, alleging disability beginning September 21, 2011. His application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, whereupon he requested and was granted a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). Steadmon was represented by counsel at the hearing, which was held on July 29, 2013, before ALJ Edward Studzinski. Steadmon and a vocational expert testified at the hearing. Thereafter, on September 16, 2013, the ALJ rendered his decision in which he concluded that Steadmon was not disabled as defined by the Act. After the Appeals Council denied Steadmon's request for review of the ALJ's decision, he filed this timely action for judicial review.

         II. EVIDENCE OF RECORD

         The relevant evidence of record is amply set forth in the parties' briefs and need not be repeated here. Specific facts relevant to the Court's disposition of this case are discussed below.

         III. 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 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).[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 (“Listings”), 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 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 his 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 his analysis of the evidence in his decision; while he “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.

         IV. THE ALJ'S DECISION

         The ALJ found at step one that Steadmon had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date of September 21, 2011. At steps two and three, the ALJ found that Steadmon had the severe impairments of degenerative disc disease, chronic pneumonia, rheumatoid arthritis, and depression, but that his impairments did not meet or medically equal any of the Listings. At step four, the ALJ concluded that Steadmon had

the residual functional capacity to perform less than sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a). Specifically, the claimant can lift and carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently. The claimant can sit for six hours and stand and/or walk for six hours for a total of eight hours in a workday, with normal breaks. The claimant cannot be on his feet for more than fifteen minutes at a time, afterwards he will need to sit for five minutes before getting back on his feet. The claimant should also be allowed to stand from a seated position for five minutes after every sixty minutes of sitting. The claimant can continue working when shifting position as described. The claimant needs to use a quad cane when walking, although he does not need it just to stand. The claimant can occasionally climb stairs and ramps, but cannot climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. The claimant can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. The claimant is limited to occasional use of his feet to operate foot controls. The claimant is limited to frequent, but not constant use of his hands for fine or gross manipulation, and is unable to use his hands for forceful grasping or torqueing. The claimant is limited to no more than very occasional precise fine manipulation, such as might be involved in fine painting or soldering extremely small parts. The claimant cannot walk on uneven or wet terrain, and must avoid concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dusts, gasses, or poor ventilation. The claimant's work must not require him to drive or operate machinery or work around hazards such as unprotected heights, exposed flames, or large bodies of water. The claimant's work must not involve concentrated exposure to unguarded hazardous machinery. The claimant is limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks and simple decision-making. The claimant's work must involve only occasional and minor changes in the work setting and simple judgment.

         Record at 28. Given this RFC, the ALJ determined that Steadmon was unable to perform his past relevant work as an electrician. At step five, the ALJ found that there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Steadmon could perform, including surveillance system monitor, charge account clerk, and hand ...


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