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Adams v. Colvin

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

January 20, 2017

JOHN P. ADAMS, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVTN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.


          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge

         Plaintiff John P. Adams requests judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"), denying Adams's application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Insurance Benefits ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act"). The Court, having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, now rules as follows.


         Adams filed for DIB and SSI on August 31, 2012, alleging he became disabled on February 13, 2012, due to coronary artery disease, syncope, degenerative disc disease, and other disabilities. Adams's application was denied initially on January 9, 2013, and again upon reconsideration. Following the denial upon reconsideration, Adams requested and received a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). That hearing, during which Adams was represented by counsel, was held on October 16, 2014, before ALJ Belinda J. Brown. The ALJ issued her decision on October 31, 2014, denying Adams's claim. Adams requested review by the Appeals Council, and the Appeals Council denied the request for review. Adams then filed this timely appeal.


         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).

         In determining whether a claimant is disabled, the Commissioner employs a five-step sequential analysis. 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).[1] At step two, if the claimant does not have a "severe" impairment (i.e., one that significantly limits his ability to perform basic work activities), he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii). 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. pt. 404, subpt. P, App. 1, and whether the impairment meets the twelvemonth duration requirement; if so, the claimant is deemed disabled, 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iii). 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 step five, if the claimant can perform any other work in the national economy, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(v).

         In reviewing the ALJ's decision, 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., and 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) (citation omitted). 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). In order to be affirmed, the ALJ must articulate her analysis of the evidence in her decision; while she "is not required to address every piece of evidence or testimony, " she must "provide some glimpse into her reasoning . . . [and] build an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to her conclusion." Dixon, 270 F.3d at 1176 (citations omitted).


         ALJ Brown determined at step one that Adams had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 13, 2012, the alleged onset date. Record at 17. At steps two and three, the ALJ concluded that Adams had the severe impairments of coronary artery disease, syncope, and degenerative disc disease, as well as several non-severe impairments, including diabetes with neuropathy and gastroparesis; symptoms of fecal incontinence, nausea, and vomiting; adjustment disorder, and chronic brain syndrome. R. at 17-19. At step four, the ALJ determined that Adams had the following residual functional capacity ("RFC"):

[T]he claimant has the [RFC] to perform sedentary work . . . except he can never balance, kneel, crouch, crawl, or climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasionally climb ramps or stairs; never work at unprotected heights or around dangerous moving machinery; never operate a motor vehicle; and have occasional exposure to vibrations.

R. at 21. The ALJ also determined that Adams was able to perform past relevant work as an underwriter, as the position is found in the national economy, and district manager, as he had performed the job and as it is found in the national economy. R. at 26. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Adams was not disabled as defined by the Act.


         The ALJ's decision in combination with Adams's brief (Dkt. No. 12) aptly sets forth the medical evidence of record, which need not be recited here. Specific facts are ...

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