United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
TANYA Y. McKINNEY, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security, Administration, Defendant.
DECISION ON JUDICIAL REVIEW
McVicker Lynch United States Magistrate Judge
Y. McKinney protectively filed for DIB and SSI on July 8,
2008- alleging disability since January 1, 2008-and the
agency denied her claims initially and on reconsideration.
Following a hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision
in February 2011, and the Appeals Council denied Ms.
McKinney's request for review of this decision.
Thereafter, Ms. McKinney appealed to the district court,
which reversed the decision and remanded the case to the
Commissioner for further proceedings. Ms. McKinney appeared
and testified at a hearing and subsequent supplemental
hearing held in May and October 2014 in Indianapolis. In
November 2014, the ALJ denied Ms. McKinney's claims in a
written decision; thereafter, the Appeals Council denied her
request for review. Ms. McKinney now seeks judicial review of
the Commissioner's decision. See 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). Finding that the ALJ's
decision is supported by substantial evidence, this court
for Proving Disability
prove disability, a claimant must show that she is unable to
“engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason
of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment
which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted
or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not
less than twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A). Ms. McKinney is disabled if her impairments are
of such severity that she is not able to perform the work she
previously engaged in and, if based on her age, education,
and work experience, she cannot engage in any other kind of
substantial gainful work that exists in significant numbers
in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).
Social Security Administration (“SSA”) has
prescribed a “five-step sequential evaluation
process” for determining disability. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a). The first step
inquires as to whether the claimant is currently engaged in
substantial gainful activity; if so, then she is not
disabled. Step two asks whether the claimant's
impairments, singly or in combination, are severe; if they
are not, then she is not disabled. A severe impairment is one
that “significantly limits [a claimant's] physical
or mental ability to do basic work activities.” 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c). The third step is an
analysis of whether the claimant's impairments, either
singly or in combination, meet or medically equal the
criteria of any of the conditions in the Listing of
Impairments, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. The
Listing of Impairments includes medical conditions defined by
criteria that the SSA has pre-determined are disabling, so
that if a claimant meets all of the criteria for a listed
impairment or presents medical findings equal in severity to
the criteria for the most similar listed impairment, then the
claimant is presumptively disabled and qualifies for
benefits. Sims v. Barnhart, 309 F.3d 424, 428 (7th
claimant's impairments do not satisfy a listing, then her
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) is
determined for purposes of steps four and five. RFC is a
claimant's ability to do work on a regular and continuing
basis despite her impairment-related physical and mental
limitations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545. At the fourth step,
if the claimant has the RFC to perform her past relevant
work, then she is not disabled. The fifth step asks whether
there is work in the relevant economy that the claimant can
perform, based on her vocational profile (age, work
experience, and education) and her RFC; if so, then she is
individual claiming disability bears the burden of proof at
steps one through four. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S.
137, 146 n.5 (1987). If the claimant meets that burden, then
the Commissioner has the burden at step five to show that
work exists in significant numbers in the national economy
that the claimant can perform, given her age, education, work
experience, and functional capacity. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1560(c)(2); Young v. Barnhart, 362 F.3d 995,
1000 (7th Cir. 2004).
of Review of the ALJ's Decision
review of the Commissioner's (or ALJ's) factual
findings is deferential. A court must affirm if no error of
law occurred and if the findings are supported by substantial
evidence. Dixon v. Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1176
(7th Cir. 2001). Substantial evidence means evidence that a
reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. Id. The standard demands more than a
scintilla of evidentiary support but does not demand a
preponderance of the evidence. Wood v. Thompson, 246
F.3d 1026, 1029 (7th Cir. 2001).
is required to articulate a minimal, but legitimate,
justification for his decision to accept or reject specific
evidence of a disability. Scheck v. Barnhart, 357
F.3d 697, 700 (7th Cir. 2004). The ALJ need not address every
piece of evidence in his decision, but he cannot ignore a
line of evidence that undermines the conclusions he made, and
he must trace the path of his reasoning and connect the
evidence to his findings and conclusions. Arnett v.
Astrue, 676 F.3d 586, 592 (7th Cir. 2012); Clifford
v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 872 (7th Cir. 2000).
ALJ's Sequential Findings
McKinney was 32 years old at the time of the alleged
disability onset date. She has a high school education and
past relevant work experience as a lead teacher at a
preschool, retail clerk, cashier, and housekeeper.
one, the ALJ found that Ms. McKinney had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since January 1, 2008, the
alleged onset date. At step two, he identified numerous
severe impairments, including residuals of pituitary adenoma,
conversion disorder, and borderline intellectual functioning.
At step three, the ALJ found that none of the severe
impairments, singly or in combination, met or medically
equaled a listing.
next determined that Ms. McKinney has the residual functional
capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R.
404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except that she:
• can lift, carry, push or pull twenty pounds
occasionally and ten pounds frequently;
• is able to stand and walk six hours of an eight-hour
workday, and sit for six hours of an eight-hour workday;
• can occasionally stoop, balance, crouch, kneel, crawl,
and climb stairs or ramps;
• should not climb ladders, ropes, scaffolds or work
around hazards such as unprotected height or unguarded moving
• is limited to work involving simple, repetitive tasks
requiring no independent judgment on basic work processes.
Work goals from day-to-day ...