United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
MICHELE G. VELDHUIZEN, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
R. CHERRY MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by
Plaintiff Michele G. Veldhuizen on November 12, 2015, and
Plaintiff's Brief [DE 10], filed by Plaintiff on March
14, 2016. Plaintiff requests that the January 17, 2014
decision of the Administrative Law Judge denying her claim
for disability insurance benefits be reversed and remanded
for further proceedings. On May 23, 2016, the Commissioner
filed a response. Plaintiff has not filed a reply brief, and
the time to do so has passed. For the following reasons, the
Court denies Plaintiff's request for remand.
filed an application for disability insurance benefits on
July 5, 2011, alleging disability since January 1, 2009. The
claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. On April
9, 2012, Plaintiff filed a written request for hearing. On
October 30, 2013, Administrative Law Judge David R. Bruce
(“ALJ”) held a hearing. In attendance at the
hearing were Plaintiff, Plaintiff's attorney, a
non-attorney representative, and an impartial vocational
expert. On January 17, 2014, the ALJ issued a written
decision denying benefits, making the following findings:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through June 30, 2016.
2. The claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity
during the following periods: 01/2009 through 12/2010.
3. However, there has been a continuous 12-month period(s)
during which the claimant did not engage in substantial
gainful activity. The remaining findings address the
period(s) the claimant did not engage in substantial gainful
4. The claimant has the following severe impairments: carpal
tunnel syndrome, degenerative disc disease, fibromyalgia,
obesity, bi-polar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder,
depression and alcohol and drug dependence in remission.
5. 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.
6. 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) with exceptions. Specifically, the claimant
is able to lift up to 20 pounds occasionally and up to 10
pounds frequently, stand and/or walk up to 6 hours in an
8-hour workday and sit up to 6 hour in an 8-hour workday. She
is never to climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds or crawl, but
may occasionally climb ramps and stairs, and balance, stoop,
kneel and crouch. In addition, she is to avoid vibration and
slippery or uneven surfaces. Mentally, the claimant is able
to remember, understand and carry-out simple tasks and is
limited to making simple work related decisions. She is able
to have frequent superficial interaction with her
supervisors, co-workers and the public. Further, any time off
her tasks can be accommodated by normal breaks.
7. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work.
8. The claimant was born [in 1965] and was 43 years old,
which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the
alleged disability onset date.
9. The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from January 1, 2009, through the
date of this decision.
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.
Plaintiff filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) for review of the Agency's decision.
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.
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)).
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 law, ” the Court may
reverse the decision “without regard to the volume of
evidence in support of the factual findings.” White
v. Apfel, 167 F.3d 369, 373 (7th Cir. 1999) (citing
Binion v. Chater, 108 F.3d 780, 782 (7th Cir.
minimum, an ALJ must articulate his analysis of the evidence
in order to allow the reviewing court to trace the path of
his reasoning and to be assured that the ALJ considered the
important evidence. See Scott v. Barnhart, 297 F.3d
589, 595 (7th Cir. 2002); Diaz v. Chater, 55 F.3d
300, 307 (7th Cir. 1995); Green v. Shalala, 51 F.3d
96, 101 (7th Cir. 1995). An ALJ must “‘build an
accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to [the]
conclusion' so that [a reviewing court] may assess the
validity of the agency's final decision and afford [a
claimant] meaningful review.” Giles v. Astrue,
483 F.3d 483, 487 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Scott,
297 F.3d at 595)); see also O'Connor-Spinner,
627 F.3d at 618 (“An ALJ need not specifically address
every piece of evidence, but must provide a ‘logical
bridge' between the evidence and his
conclusions.”); Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d
881, 889 (7th Cir. 2001) (“[T]he ALJ's analysis
must provide some glimpse into the reasoning behind [the]
decision to deny benefits.”).
eligible for disability benefits, a claimant must establish
that she suffers from a “disability” as defined
by the Social Security Act and regulations. The Act defines
“disability” as an inability to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment that can be
expected to result in death or that has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
twelve months. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). To be found
disabled, the claimant's impairment must not only prevent
her from doing her previous work, but considering her age,
education, and work experience, it must also ...