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King v. Berryhill

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

March 10, 2017

MAX L. KING, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, [1]Defendant.



         Plaintiff Max L. King requests judicial review of the final decision of the Defendant, Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”), denying King's applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act. The Court, having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, rules as follows.


         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 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. § 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).


         King protectively filed for DIB and SSI on April 12, 2012, alleging that he became disabled on August 28, 2008, primarily due to degenerative joint disease, degenerative disc disease, obstructive sleep apnea, deep vein thrombosis, obesity, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and a panic disorder. King was born on December 3, 1964, and was 49 years old on the date last insured. King has at least a high school education and has past relevant work as a semi-truck driver and tank truck driver.

         King's application was denied initially on September 14, 2012, and upon reconsideration on January 4, 2013.[3] Thereafter, King requested and received a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). A hearing, during which King was represented by counsel, was held by ALJ Daniel J. Mages on March 4, 2014. An impartial vocational expert also appeared and testified at the hearing. The ALJ issued his decision denying King's claim on April 25, 2014. After the Appeals Council denied his request for review, King filed this timely appeal.


         The ALJ determined that King had met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2013; therefore, he had to establish disability on or before that date to be entitled to a period of disability and disability insurance benefits. The ALJ determined at step one that King had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period from January 25, 2011, through his date last insured of December 31, 2013. At steps two and three, the ALJ concluded that King had the severe impairments of “degenerative joint disease; degenerative disc disease; obstructive sleep apnea; deep vein thrombosis; obesity; depression; bipolar disorder; anxiety; and a panic disorder, ” Record at 18, and that the impairments more than minimally limited King's ability to perform the full range of basic work activities and therefore were severe within the meaning of the Regulations. The ALJ found that King did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of any of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, and 404.1526). At step four, the ALJ determined that King had the Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”) to perform a range of sedentary work (20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a)) defined as follows:

Sitting six hours during an eight-hour workday; standing and walking two hours during an eight-hour workday, with the use of a cane for walking; lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling ten pounds occasionally and five pounds frequently; occasionally climbing ramps and stairs, balancing, stooping and crouching; no kneeling or crawling; no climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds; no work around dangerous moving machinery or at unprotected heights; no work involving a risk of deep cuts; no more than moderate exposure to extreme heat, extreme cold, wetness, humidity, dusts, fumes, gases or other respiratory irritants; no complex job tasks but capable of unskilled and semiskilled work; no more than brief and superficial interaction with the public, coworkers or supervisors.

R. at 21-22.

         Given this RFC, the ALJ determined that King was unable to perform any of his past relevant work. The ALJ found that there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that King could have performed. The vocational expert testified that an individual with King's age, education, work experience, and RFC could perform the requirements of representative unskilled sedentary occupations, including information clerk (DOT #205.367-014); assembler (DOT #734.687-018); and hand packager (DOT #920.687-030). Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that King was not disabled as defined by the Act.


         The relevant medical evidence of record is aptly set forth in King's brief (Dkt. No. 15) and need not be recited here. Specific facts are set forth in the discussion section below where relevant.

         V. ...

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