United States District Court, N.D. Indiana
BARBARA G. TAYLOR, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
S. VAN BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Barbara G. Taylor seeks judicial review of the Social
Security Administration's decision denying her disability
insurance benefits, and asks this Court to remand the case.
While Plaintiff had counsel on the administrative level, she
is proceeding pro se in her appeal. Because Plaintiff has
failed to identify any specific error in the Administrative
Law Judge's decision and because the decision itself is
supported by substantial evidence in the record, the Court
affirms the decision of the Acting Commissioner.
Court has authority to review the Commissioner's decision
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Court must ensure that the
ALJ has built an “accurate and logical bridge”
from evidence to conclusion. Thomas v. Colvin, 745
F.3d 802, 806 (7th Cir. 2014). The Court will uphold
decisions that apply the correct legal standard and are
supported by substantial evidence. Briscoe ex rel. Taylor
v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 351 (7th Cir. 2005).
Commissioner follows a five-step inquiry in evaluating claims
for disability benefits under the Social Security Act:
(1) whether the claimant is currently employed;
(2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment;
(3) whether the claimant's impairment is one that the
Commissioner considers conclusively disabling;
(4) if the claimant does not have a conclusively disabling
impairment, whether he can perform his past relevant work;
(5) whether the claimant is capable of performing any work
in the national economy.
Kastner v. Astrue, 697 F.3d 642, 646 (7th Cir.
claimant bears the burden of proof at every step except step
five. Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir.
appeal consists of generic review of her medical, employment,
and social history beginning in 1979 when she was seventeen
years old. In her opening brief, she doesn't cite to the
record; in her reply, she does have some citations to the
record but they're imprecise and sometimes contradictory
to the propositions for which they're
cited. In all, Plaintiff believes that, following
a car accident in 1999, she began suffering serious medical
problems but the ALJ overlooked them because he failed to
review her case thoroughly.
of Plaintiff's pro se status, the Court gives her special
deference in her appeal, holding her to lesser procedural
requirements. But she is not excused from meeting her legal
burden to show that the ALJ committed a harmful error.
Shinseki v. Sanders, 129 S.Ct. 1696, 1706 (2009).
And in this task she has failed.
Plaintiff portrays herself as a person who's had medical
issues for the past twenty years. She even submits some new
medical records from 2015. But she doesn't explain why it
was an error for the ALJ to find her not disabled through the
end of her last insured date, December 31, 2004. So much of
what Plaintiff complains of---carpal tunnel syndrome,
rheumatoid arthritis, uterine fibroids, etc.---were not
present before the insured period ended and they are too
remote to be material to her claim.
Plaintiff does not question the ALJ's credibility
findings. Nor does she argue that the ALJ didn't base his
decision on the medical information before him. In fact, the
ALJ contrasted the medical information in the record with her
subjective complaints, finding the latter to be overstated.
Moreover, Plaintiff's testimony didn't square with
the testimony from her husband and her daughter, who
portrayed a much wider range of her activities than she did.
ALJ noted, the record doesn't contain any treating
physician opinions that suggest that she was permanently
disabled or that she had limits greater than the ALJ found.
Plaintiff was represented by counsel at the hearing, and she
doesn't argue that her attorney didn't have access to
all of her medical evidence. Yet, nothing in the record
stands in contradiction of the ALJ's residual functional
capacity finding, which in fact was more restrictive than the
limits imposed by medical sources. In her appeal, the
Plaintiff hasn't pointed out to any part of the record
showing that she suffered a disability before the last
insured date or, in other words, that the ALJ didn't base
his decision on substantial evidence in the record. While the
Court understands that Plaintiff has suffered her share of
hardships in life, which are listed in her briefs, she's
failed to show that her case should be remanded for
the Court affirms the decision of the Social ...