United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
WILLIE V. SMITH, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ENTRY OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTION AND
ADOPTING MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE
Willie V. Smith ("Smith") requested judicial review
of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (the "Commissioner"),
denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits
("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. § 423(d) ("the Act"). On October 3,
2016, the Court referred Smith's request to the
Magistrate Judge. Thereafter, the Magistrate Judge issued his
Report and Recommendation wherein the he recommended that the
Commissioner's final decision be affirmed. (Filing
No. 16.) Smith now objects to the recommendation.
(Filing No. 17.) The only issue before the Court is
whether the ALJ failed to satisfy Social Security Rule
("SSR") 00-4p requirements when concluding that
Smith acquired transferable skills from past relevant work.
For the following reasons, the Court
OVERRULES Smith's Objections and
ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report and
August 20, 2012, Smith, when he was sixty-one years old,
protectively filed an application for DIB, alleging a
disability onset date of August 17, 2012. (Filing No.
10-2 at 18.) His claims were initially denied on
November 2, 2012, and again on reconsideration. Id.
Smith filed a written request for a hearing and on August 5,
2014, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Joan
Ho ("the ALJ"). Id. Smith was present and
represented by counsel. Id. A vocational expert,
("the VE") appeared and testified at the hearing.
Id. The ALJ denied Smith's application for DIB.
Id. at 15. Following this decision, Smith timely
requested review by the Appeals Council. Id. at 13.
On June 9, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Smith's
request for review of the ALJ's decision, thereby making
the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner
for purposes of judicial review. Id. at 2-7. On
August 6, 2015, Smith filed an action for judicial review of
the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
(Filing No. 1.) On October 3, 2016, the Court
referred the matter to Magistrate Judge Mark J. Dinsmore for
a report and recommendation, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B). On December 20, 2016, the Magistrate Judge
filed his Report and Recommendation (Filing No. 16)
to which Smith filed a timely objection. (Filing No.
district court may assign dispositive motions to a magistrate
judge, in which case the magistrate judge may submit to the
district judge only a report and recommended disposition,
including any proposed findings of fact." Schur v.
L.A. Weight Loss Ctrs., Inc., 577 F.3d 752, 760 (7th
Cir. 2009) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B);
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)). "The magistrate judge's
recommendation on a dispositive matter is not a final order,
and the district judge makes the ultimate decision to adopt,
reject, or modify it." Schur, 577 F.3d at 760
(citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3)).
After a magistrate judge makes a report and recommendation,
either party may object within fourteen days. 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2). "A judge of the
court shall make a de novo determination of those
portions of the report or specified proposed findings or
recommendations to which objection is made" with respect
to dispositive motions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Further,
a judge "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in
part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate
DISABILITY AND STANDARD OF REVIEW
the Act, a claimant may be entitled to DIB only after he
establishes that he is disabled. 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). In order to be found disabled, a claimant must
demonstrate that his physical or mental limitations prevent
him from doing not only his previous work but any other kind
of gainful employment which exists in the national economy,
considering his age, education, and work experience. 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).
Commissioner employs a five-step sequential analysis to
determine whether a claimant is disabled. At step one, if the
claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, he is
not disabled despite his medical condition and other factors.
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i). At step two, if the
claimant does not have a "severe" impairment that
meets the durational requirement, he is not disabled. 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii). A severe impairment is one
that "significantly limits [a claimant's] physical
or mental ability to do basic work activities." 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). At step three, the Commissioner
determines whether the claimant's impairment or
combination of impairments meets or medically equals any
impairment that appears in the Listing of Impairments, 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, and whether the
impairment meets the twelve month duration requirement; if
so, the claimant is deemed disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
claimant's impairments do not meet or medically equal one
of the impairments on the Listing of Impairments, then his
residual functional capacity will be assessed and used for
the fourth and fifth steps. Residual functional capacity
("RFC") is the "maximum that a claimant can
still do despite his mental and physical limitations."
Craft v. Astrue, 539 F.3d 668, 675-76 (7th Cir.
2008) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1); SSR 96-8p). At
step four, if the claimant is able to perform his past
relevant work, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4)(iv). At the fifth and final step, it must be
determined whether the claimant can perform any other work in
the relevant economy, given his RFC and considering his age,
education, and past work experience. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(v). The claimant is not disabled if he can
perform any other work in the relevant economy.
combined effect of all the impairments of the claimant shall
be considered throughout the disability determination
process. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(B). The burden of proof
is on the claimant for the first four steps; it then shifts
to the Commissioner for the fifth step. Young v. Sec
'y of Health & Human Servs., 957 F.2d 386, 389
(7th Cir. 1992).
405(g) of the Act gives the court "power to enter, upon
the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment
affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding
the cause for a rehearing." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). In
reviewing the ALJ's decision, this Court must uphold the
ALJ's findings of fact if the findings are supported by
substantial evidence 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. Further, this Court may not
reweigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for that of
the ALJ. Overman v. Astrue, 546 F.3d 456, 462 (7th
Cir. 2008). While the Court reviews the ALJ's decision
deferentially, the Court cannot uphold an ALJ's decision
if the decision "fails to mention highly pertinent
evidence, ... or that because of contradictions or missing
premises fails to build a logical bridge between the facts of
the case and the outcome." Parker v. Astrue,
597 F.3d 920, 921 (7th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted).
"need not evaluate in writing every piece of testimony
and evidence submitted." Carlson v. Shalala,
999 F.2d 180, 181 (7th Cir. 1993). 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). The ALJ is required to
articulate only a minimal, but legitimate, justification for
her acceptance or rejection of specific evidence of
disability. Scheckv. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 697, 700
(7th Cir. 2004).