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Potysman v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

November 2, 2016

MICHAEL H. POTYSMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          RUDY LOZANO, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         This matter is before the Court for review of the Commissioner of Social Security's decision denying Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income to Plaintiff Michael H. Potysman. For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED and this case is REMANDED to the Social Security Administration for further proceedings consistent with this opinion pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. section 405(g).

         BACKGROUND

         In March 2011, Plaintiff Michael H. Potysman (“Potysman”) filed an application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. section 401 et seq., and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. section 1381, et. seq. Potysman alleged that his disability began on April 10, 2010. The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denied his initial applications and also denied his claims upon reconsideration.

         Potysman requested a hearing, and on October 31, 2012, Potysman appeared with his attorney at an administration hearing before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) David R. Bruce. Testimony was provided by Potysman and vocational expert Richard T. Fisher. On November 29, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision denying Potysman's claim, finding him not disabled because he could perform his past relevant work as a security guard and house officer, despite the additional limitations which erode his light occupational base. (Tr. 20.)

         Potysman requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's decision, but that request was denied. Accordingly, the ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision. See 20 C.F.R. § 422.210(a). Potysman has initiated the instant action for judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 405(g).

         DISCUSSION

         Facts

         Potysman was born in November 1956 and was 53 years old on the alleged disability onset date of April 10, 2010. (Tr. 32.) He completed the eighth grade and did not acquire his GED. (Tr. 34.) His past relevant work includes employment as a security guard, stock clerk, house officer/detective, commercial cleaner and corrugator operator helper. (Tr. 62-63.) Potysman alleges the following impairments: hepatitis C, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, depression, anxiety, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”), and obesity. (DE #21 at 2.) The medical evidence is largely undisputed and has been set forth in detail in both the ALJ's decision and Potysman's opening brief. There is no reason to repeat it in detail here, although pertinent details are discussed below as needed.

         Review of Commissioner's Decision

         This Court has authority to review the Commissioner's decision to deny social security benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “The findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive.” Id. Substantial evidence is defined as “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971) (citation omitted). In determining whether substantial evidence exists, the Court shall examine the record in its entirety, but shall not substitute its own opinion for the ALJ's by reconsidering the facts or reweighing the evidence. See Jens v. Barnhart, 347 F.3d 209, 212 (7th Cir. 2003). While a decision denying benefits need not address every piece of evidence, the ALJ must provide a “logical bridge” between the evidence and his conclusion that the claimant is not disabled. Terry v. Astrue, 580 F.3d 471, 475 (7th Cir. 2009).

         As a threshold matter, for a claimant to be eligible for DIB or SSI benefits under the Social Security Act, the claimant must establish that he is disabled. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A) and 1382(a)(1). To qualify as being disabled, the claimant must be 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 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). To determine whether a claimant has satisfied this statutory definition, the ALJ performs a five-step evaluation:

Step 1: Is the claimant performing substantially gainful activity? If yes, the claim is disallowed; if no, the inquiry proceeds to Step 2.
Step 2: Is the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments “severe” and expected to last at least twelve months? If not, the claim is disallowed; if ...

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