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Vaught v. Berryhill

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

March 6, 2017

KYLE R. VAUGHT, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.


          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge

         Plaintiff Kyle Vaught requests judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”), denying his application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) and Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). The Court rules as follows.


         Vaught protectively filed applications for SSI and DIB in November 2011, alleging onset of disability on January 1, 2000. The Social Security Administration initially denied Vaught's application on April 2, 2012. After Vaught timely requested reconsideration, the Social Security Administration again denied his claim on August 20, 2012. Thereafter, Vaught requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). The ALJ held a hearing on March 5, 2014, at which Vaught and a vocational expert testified. The ALJ issued his decision denying Vaught's DIB and SSI applications on May 14, 2014. After the Appeals Council denied Vaught's request for review, he filed this action seeking judicial review.


         Disability is defined as “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable mental or physical impairment which can be expected to result in death, or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve 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 that 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. § 404.1520(b).[2] 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. § 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. 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. § 404.1520(d). At step four, if the claimant is able to perform his past relevant work, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f). At step five, if the claimant can perform any other work in the national economy, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(g).

         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). In order to be affirmed, the ALJ must articulate his analysis of the evidence in his decision; while he “is not required to address every piece of evidence or testimony presented, ” he must “provide an accurate and logical bridge between the evidence and [his] conclusion that a claimant is not disabled.” Kastner v. Astrue, 697 F.3d 642, 646 (7th Cir. 2012). “If a decision lacks evidentiary support or is so poorly articulated as to prevent meaningful review, a remand is required.” Id. (citation omitted).


         The ALJ found at step one that Vaught had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 2, 2000, the alleged disability onset date. At step two, the ALJ determined that Vaught had the following severe impairments: depressive disorder; intermittent explosive disorder; a personality disorder; borderline intellectual functioning/learning disability; and sleep apnea. The ALJ found at step three that these impairments did not, individually or in combination, meet the severity of one of the listed impairments. The ALJ's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) determination was as follows:

[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, but with the following nonexertional limitations: work is limited to simple, routine and repetitive tasks; performed in a low stress environment, defined as free of fast-paced production requirements, with no significant reading/writing greater than the sixth grade level; involves only simple, work-related decisions, few-if any-workplace changes, no interaction with the general public, and only occasional and superficial interaction with co-workers and supervisors.

         Record at 17. The ALJ concluded at step four that Vaught had no past relevant work. At step five, the ALJ found that, considering his age, education, work experience, and RFC, there were jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that he could perform. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Vaught was not disabled.


         The facts relating to Vaught's background and psychological records are set forth quite thoroughly in the ALJ's decision and ...

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