United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
COURTNEY M. JUDD, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge.
Courtney Judd applied for disability benefits under the
Social Security Act on March 15, 2013. [Filing No. 14-2
at 17.] Her claim was denied both initially and on
reconsideration, and a hearing was held before Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) Ronald T. Jordan on
January 13, 2015. [Filing No. 14-2 at 17.] On
January 23, 2015, the ALJ issued an opinion concluding that
Ms. Judd was not disabled as defined by the Social Security
Act. [Filing No. 14-2 at 17.] The Appeals Council
denied her request for review on February 17, 2016, making
the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision
subject to judicial review. [Filing No. 14-2 at 2.]
Ms. Judd filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) on November 20, 2015, asking this Court to review her
denial of benefits. [Filing No. 1.]
Social Security Act authorizes payment of disability
insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income to
individuals with disabilities.” Barnhart v.
Walton, 535 U.S. 212, 214 (2002). “The statutory
definition of ‘disability' has two parts. First, it
requires a certain kind of inability, namely, an inability to
engage in any substantial gainful activity. Second it
requires an impairment, namely, a physical or mental
impairment, which provides reason for the inability. The
statute adds that the impairment must be one that has lasted
or can be expected to last . . . not less than 12
months.” Id. at 217.
applicant appeals an adverse benefits decision, this
Court's role is limited to ensuring that the ALJ applied
the correct legal standards and that substantial evidence
exists for the ALJ's decision. Barnett v.
Barnhart, 381 F.3d 664, 668 (7th Cir. 2004) (citation
omitted). For the purpose of judicial review,
“[s]ubstantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. (quotation omitted). Because
the ALJ “is in the best position to determine the
credibility of witnesses, ” Craft v. Astrue,
539 F.3d 668, 678 (7th Cir. 2008), this Court must afford the
ALJ's credibility determination “considerable
deference, ” overturning it only if it is
“patently wrong, ” Prochaska v.
Barnhart, 454 F.3d 731, 738 (7th Cir. 2006) (quotations
must apply the five-step inquiry set forth in 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v), evaluating the following, in
(1) whether the claimant is currently [un]employed; (2)
whether the claimant has a severe impairment; (3) whether the
claimant's impairment meets or equals one of the
impairments listed by the [Commissioner]; (4) whether the
claimant can perform [her] past work; and (5) whether the
claimant is capable of performing work in the national
Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir. 2000)
(citations omitted) (alterations in original). “If a
claimant satisfies steps one, two, and three, [she] will
automatically be found disabled. If a claimant satisfies
steps one and two, but not three, then [she] must satisfy
step four. Once step four is satisfied, the burden shifts to
the SSA to establish that the claimant is capable of
performing work in the national economy.” Knight v.
Chater, 55 F.3d 309, 313 (7th Cir. 1995).
Step Three, but before Step Four, the ALJ must determine a
claimant's Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”) by evaluating “all
limitations that arise from medically determinable
impairments, even those that are not severe.”
Villano v. Astrue, 556 F.3d 558, 563 (7th Cir.
2009). In doing so, the ALJ “may not dismiss a line of
evidence contrary to the ruling.” Id.The ALJ
uses the RFC at Step Four to determine whether the claimant
can perform his own past relevant work, and if not, at Step
Five to determine whether the claimant can perform other
work. See20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e), (g). The
burden of proof is on the claimant for Steps One through
Four; only at Step Five does the burden shift to the
Commissioner. Clifford, 227 F.3d at 868.
ALJ committed no legal error and substantial evidence exists
to support the ALJ's decision, the Court must affirm the
denial of benefits. Barnett, 381 F.3d at 668. When
an ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial
evidence, a remand for further proceedings is typically the
appropriate remedy. Briscoe ex rel. Taylor v.
Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 355 (7th Cir. 2005). An award of
benefits “is appropriate only where all factual issues
have been resolved and the record can yield but one
supportable conclusion.” Id. (citation
Judd was born in 1989. [Filing No. 14-2 at 27.]
After being initially tested in elementary school, Ms. Judd
was diagnosed as mildly mentally handicapped. [Filing No.
14-6 at 70.] As a result, she attended special education
classes through high school and obtained a certificate of
completion. [Filing No. 14-2 at 46.]
February of 2010, Ms. Judd was evaluated by Dr. Albert Fink.
[Filing No. 14-7 at 3.] Dr. Fink administered the
Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (Fourth Edition)
(“WAIS-IV”) test and assessed a full
scale IQ of 65, a score in the first percentile. [Filing
No. 14-7 at 4.] Dr. Fink observed that Ms. Judd
“did not appear to concentrate well during formal
testing suggesting that the results obtained may well be an
under estimate of actual ability.” [Filing No. 14-7
at 3.] Dr. Fink diagnosed Ms. Judd with borderline
intellectual functioning and a reading disorder (by history).
[Filing No. 14-7 at 5.] In October of 2010, Ms. Judd
was evaluated by Dr. Betty Unger Watson. [Filing No. 14-7
at 38.] Dr. Watson diagnosed Ms. Judd with
“possible mild mental retardation or borderline
intellectual functioning.” [Filing No. 14-7 at
41.] Also in October 2010, Ms. Judd was evaluated by Dr.
Deborah Zera. [Filing No. 14-7 at 43.] Dr. Zera
diagnosed Ms. Judd with “mild mental retardation,
” ruling out borderline intellectual functioning and
learning disabilities. [Filing No. 14-7 at 44.]
Neither Dr. Watson nor Dr. Zera administered an IQ test.
December of 2010, Ms. Judd was evaluated by Dr. Eileen
Schellhammer, a licensed school psychologist. [Filing No.
14-9 at 15.] Dr. Schellhammer evaluated Ms. Judd using
the Stanford Binet Intelligence Scale (Fifth Edition) and
assessed a full scale IQ of 57. [Filing No. 14-9 at
19.] On the Wide Range Achievement Test IV
(“WRAT-IV”), Ms. Judd “showed
basic skills at the late second to mid-third grade
equivalence, ” with a reading level assessed at grade
2.9. [Filing No. 14-9 at 19.] In April of 2013, Ms.
Judd was again evaluated by Dr. Fink. [Filing No. 14-7 at
65.] He diagnosed Ms. Judd with a reading disorder and
borderline intellectual functioning. [Filing No. 14-7 at
66.] Dr. Fink did not administer an IQ test.
Judd has not been able to obtain a driver's license,
which she testified was because she could not pass the
written examination portion of the test. [Filing No. 14-2
at 44.] She was previously employed at a daycare and as
a cafeteria worker. [Filing No. 14-2 at 45-46.]
the five-step sequential evaluation set forth by the Social
Security Administration in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4),
the ALJ ultimately concluded that Ms. Judd is not disabled.
[Filing No. 14-2 at 28.] The ALJ found as follows:
• At Step One of the analysis, the ALJ found that Ms.
Judd meets the insured status requirements of the Social
Security Act through September 30, 2015, and has not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date of
October 1, 2005. [Filing No. 14-2 at 19.]
• At Step Two of the analysis, the ALJ found that Ms.
Judd has the following severe impairments: mental handicap.
[Filing No. 14-2 at 19.]
• At Step Three of the analysis, the ALJ found that Ms.
Judd does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments. [Filing No. 14-2 at
19.] The ALJ considered various listings, but ultimately
found that Ms. Judd does not meet any of them. [Filing
No. 14-2 at 20-23.]
• After Step Three but before Step Four, the ALJ found
that Ms. Judd has the RFC to do as follows:
perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but
with the following nonexertional limitations: the work must
require only simple, repetitive tasks requiring no
independent judgment regarding basic work processes. Work
goals from day to day should be ...