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McMillion v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

February 8, 2017

DAVID DUWAYNE MCMILLION, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          PAUL R. CHERRY MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by Plaintiff David Duwayne McMillion on February 29, 2016, and Plaintiff's Memorandum in Support of his Motion to Reverse the Decision of the Commissioner of Social Security [DE 16], filed by Plaintiff on August 22, 2016. Plaintiff requests that the August 25, 2014 decision of the Administrative Law Judge denying his claim for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income be reversed and remanded for further proceedings. On October 3, 2016, the Commissioner filed a response, and Plaintiff filed a reply on October 24, 2016. For the following reasons, the Court grants Plaintiff's request for remand.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income on November 5, 2012, alleging disability since December 13, 2011. The claims were denied initially and on reconsideration. On June 19, 2013, Plaintiff filed a written request for hearing. On May 27, 2014, Administrative Law Judge Joel Fina (“ALJ”) held a hearing. In attendance at the hearing were Plaintiff, Plaintiff's attorney, an impartial vocational expert, medical expert Dr. David Biscardi, and medical expert Dr. Ashok Jilhewar. On August 25, 2014, the ALJ issued a written decision denying benefits, making the following findings:

The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2013.
The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 13, 2011, the alleged onset date.
The claimant has the following severe impairment: Class III obesity, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, degenerative joint disease of the right knee, hepatitis C infection and a history of alcohol abuse.
The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except claimant is limited to frequent climbing (ladders, ropes, scaffolds, ramps and stairs), balancing, stooping, crouching, kneeling and crawling.
The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work.
The claimant was born [in 1962] and was 49 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date.
The claimant has a limited education and is able to communicate in English.
Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills.
Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform.
The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from December 13, 2011, through the date of this decision.

(AR 14-24).

         The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, leaving the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481. Plaintiff filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for review of the Agency's decision.

         The parties filed forms of consent to have this case assigned to a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all further proceedings and to order the entry of a final judgment in this case. Therefore, this Court has jurisdiction to decide this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Social Security Act authorizes judicial review of the final decision of the agency and indicates that the Commissioner's factual findings must be accepted as conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Thus, a court reviewing the findings of an ALJ will reverse only if the findings are not supported by substantial evidence or if the ALJ has applied an erroneous legal standard. See Briscoe v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 351 (7th Cir. 2005). Substantial evidence consists of “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Schmidt v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 737, 744 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Gudgel v. Barnhart, 345 F.3d 467, 470 (7th Cir. 2003)).

         A court reviews the entire administrative record but does not reconsider facts, re-weigh the evidence, resolve conflicts in evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. See Boiles v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 421, 425 (7th Cir. 2005); Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 869 (7th Cir. 2000); Butera v. Apfel, 173 F.3d 1049, 1055 (7th Cir. 1999). Thus, the question upon judicial review of an ALJ's finding that a claimant is not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act is not whether the claimant is, in fact, disabled, but whether the ALJ “uses the correct legal standards and the decision is supported by substantial evidence.” Roddy v. Astrue, 705 F.3d 631, 636 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing O'Connor-Spinner v. Astrue, 627 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2010); Prochaska v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 731, 734-35 (7th Cir. 2006); Barnett v. Barnhart, 381 F.3d 664, 668 (7th Cir. 2004)). “[I]f the Commissioner commits an error of ...


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