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Jacoby v. Colvin

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

October 11, 2016

RENA LOUISE JACOBY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MARK J. DINSMORE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Rena Louise Jacoby (“Jacoby”) requests judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying her application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (“the Act”). See 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423(d), 1382c(a)(3)(A). For the reasons set forth below, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the District Judge AFFIRM the decision of the Commissioner.

         I. Background

         Jacoby filed her application for SSI on November 30, 2012, alleging an onset of disability on February 1, 1999. [Dkt. 14-2 at 12.] Jacoby alleges disability due to seizures, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, and right knee pain.[1] [Dkt. 14-2 at 14-17.] Jacoby's applications were initially denied on February 12, 2013, and denied again on June 3. 2013, upon reconsideration. [Dkt. 14-2 at 12.] Jacoby timely filed a written request for a hearing, which was held on July 29, 2014, before Administrative Law Judge Belinda J. Brown (“ALJ”). [Id.] The ALJ issued a decision on August 29, 2014, again denying Jacoby's application for SSI. [Dkt. 14-2 at 9.] On November 10, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Jacoby's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision for purposes of judicial review. [Dkt. 14-2 at 2.] Jacoby timely filed her Complaint with this Court on December 18, 2015, which Complaint is now before the Court.

         II. Legal Standard

         To be eligible for DIB or SSI, a claimant must have a disability pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423.[2] Disability is defined as the “inability 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 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).

         To determine whether a claimant is disabled, the Commissioner, as represented by the ALJ, employs a five-step sequential analysis: (1) if the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, she is not disabled; (2) if the claimant does not have a “severe” impairment, one that significantly limits her ability to perform basic work activities, she is not disabled; (3) if the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments meets or medically equals any impairment appearing in the Listing of Impairments, 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, App. 1, the claimant is disabled; (4) if the claimant is not found to be disabled at step three and she is able to perform her past relevant work, she is not disabled; and (5) if the claimant is not found to be disabled at step three and cannot perform her past relevant work but she can perform certain other available work, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. Before proceeding from step three to step four, the ALJ must assess the claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC), identifying the claimant's functional limitations and assessing the claimant's remaining capacity for work-related activities. S.S.R. 96-8p.

         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 but may only determine whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's conclusion. Overman v. Astrue, 546 F.3d 456, 462 (7th Cir. 2008) (citing Schmidt v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 970, 972 (7th Cir. 2000); Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d 836, 841 (7th Cir. 2007)). The ALJ “need not evaluate in writing every piece of testimony and evidence submitted.” Carlson v. Shalala, 999 F.2d 180, 181 (7th Cir. 1993) (citing Stephens v. Heckler, 766 F.2d 284, 287 (7th Cir. 1985); Zblewski v. Schweiker, 732 F.2d 75, 79 (7th Cir. 1984)). However, the “ALJ's decision must be based upon consideration of all the relevant evidence.” Herron v. Shalala, 19 F.3d 329, 333 (7th Cir. 1994). 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.

         III. The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ first determined that Jacoby has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 30, 2012, the application date. [Dkt. 14-2 at 14.] At step two, the ALJ determined that Jacoby “has the following severe impairments: osteoarthritis of the right knee.” [Id.] However, at step three, the ALJ found that Jacoby does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals a listed impairment. [Dkt. 14-2 at 17.] In making this determination, the ALJ considered Listing 1.02A for Jacoby's knee impairment, but found that the medical evidence did not support all criteria of that listing. [Id.]

         The ALJ next analyzed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”). She concluded that Plaintiff had the RFC to perform the following range of work:

[S]it for six hours, stand for six hours and walk for six hours in an eight hour day; no foot controls on the right; occasional climbing ramps and stairs; never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; no crouching or crawling; no limitations on stooping; no unprotected heights, moving mechanical parts or balancing.

[R. at 15-16] In finding these limitations, the ALJ considered Jacoby's “symptoms and the extent to which these symptoms can reasonably be accepted as consistent with the objective medical evidence and other evidence.” [Dkt. 14-2 at 17.] The ALJ then acknowledged that the evidence presented could reasonably show that Jacoby suffers from the symptoms she alleges, but he found her statements “not entirely credible.” [Dkt. 14-2 at 18.] At step four, the ALJ concluded the Plaintiff has no past relevant work. [Dkt. 14-2 at 20.] The ALJ thus proceeded to step five, at which time she received testimony from the vocational expert indicating that someone with Plaintiff's education, work experience, age, and RFC would be able to perform jobs such as cashier, production assembler, and stock clerk order filler. Because these jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. [Dkt. 14-2 at 21.]

         IV. ...


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