United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ORDER REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
J. Dinsmore United State magistrate Judge Southern District
Christopher Dixon requests judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“Commissioner”) denying his
application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security
Act (“the Act”). See42 U.S.C. §
1382c. For the reasons set forth below, the Magistrate Judge
recommends that the District Judge REVERSE the decision of
the Commissioner and REMAND the matter for proceedings
consistent with this opinion.
filed his application for SSI four-and-one-half years ago, in
July 2012, alleging April 28, 2006 as the onset date of
disability. [Dkt. 8-6 at 39 (R. 198).] In his
disability report filed in conjunction with his application,
Dixon listed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma,
and a learning disability as his disabling
conditions. [Dkt. 8-6 at 6 (R. 165).]
Dixon's application was denied initially on October 10,
2012 [Dkt. 8-3 at 14 (R. 69)] and upon
reconsideration on January 22, 2013 [Dkt. 8-3 at 27
(R. 82)]. Dixon timely requested a hearing on his
application, which was held before Administrative Law Judge
Ronald T. Jordan (“ALJ”) on July 10, 2014.
[Dkt. 8-2 at 35 (R. 34).] The ALJ issued his
decision on September 12, 2014, again denying Dixon's
application for DIB. [Dkt. 8-2 at 15-29 (R. 14-28).]
On December 18, 2015 the Appeals Council denied Dixon's
request to review the ALJ's decision, making it the final
decision of the Commissioner for the purposes of judicial
review. [Dkt. 8-2 at 2-4 (R. 1-3).] Dixon timely
filed his Complaint with this Court on February 10, 2016,
seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision.
eligible for SSI, a claimant must have a disability pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1382c. 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. §
determine whether a claimant is disabled, the ALJ employs a
five-step sequential analysis: (1) if the claimant is engaged
in substantial gainful activity, he is not disabled; (2) if
the claimant does not have a “severe” impairment,
or one that significantly limits his ability to perform basic
work activities, he 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 he is able to perform his past
relevant work, he is not disabled; and (5) if the claimant is
not found to be disabled at step three and either cannot
perform his past relevant work or has no past relevant work
but can perform certain other available work, he 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, 1996 WL 374184.
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. The 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.2d
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 contain a complete written evaluation of
every piece of evidence.” McKinzey v. Astrue,
641 F.3d 884, 891 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Schmidt v.
Barnhart, 395 F.3d 737, 744 (7th Cir. 2005)). 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. 1997). To be
affirmed, the ALJ must articulate his analysis of the
evidence in his decision. The ALJ must “provide some
glimpse into his reasoning” and “build an
accurate logical bridge from the evidence to his
conclusion.” Dixon, 270 F.3d at 1176. The
scope of review is confined to the rationale offered by the
ALJ. See SEC v. Chenery Corp., 318 U.S. 80,
93-95 (1943); Parker v. Astrue, 597 F.3d 920, 922
(7th Cir. 2010).
The ALJ's Decision
decision, the ALJ first determined that Dixon had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since July 6, 2012. [Dkt.
8-2 at 20 (R. 19).] At step two, the ALJ found
Dixon's severe impairments to include
“asthma/chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),
residuals of stabbing, borderline intellectual functioning,
and anxiety/post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”
[Id. (citation omitted)] At step three the ALJ found
that Dixon did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals a listing.
[Dkt. 8-2 at 19-23 (R. 19-22).] The ALJ addressed
Listing 3.03 for asthma; the digestive listings under 5.00;
and Listings 12.02, 12.05, and 12.06 for mental disorders.
step four, “after careful consideration of the entire
record, ” the ALJ determined that Dixon had the RFC to
perform light work with additional restrictions. [Dkt.
8-2 at 23 (R. 22).] Specifically, the ALJ found
[Dixon can] lift, carry, push, or pull 20 pounds occasionally
and 10 pounds frequently. He can stand and walk 6 hours in an
8 hour day and sit 6 hours. He should not be exposed to
concentrated levels of dusts, fumes, gasses, or strong odors.
He should not be exposed to unusually high levels of
humidity. He is limited to work involving simple, repetitive
tasks requiring no independent judgment regarding basic work
processes. Work goals from day to day should be static and
predictable. He should have only occasional, superficial
contact with coworkers and the general public. He should
learn job duties with verbal instructions.
[Id.] At step four, the ALJ found that Dixon was
unable to perform his past relevant work of maintenance
worker and driver. [Dkt. 8-2 at 27 (R. 26).] After
considering Dixon's age, education, work experience, and
RFC, the ALJ found that Dixon could perform the jobs of
grader/sorter, general laborer, and handpicker, which existed
in significant numbers in the national economy. [Dkt. 8-2
at 28 (R. 24).] Based on these findings, the ALJ
concluded that Dixon was not disabled under the Act.
makes several arguments as to why the ALJ's decision must
be reversed, challenging the ALJ's RFC determination and
step three analysis on several ...