United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW
William T. Lawrence, Judge.
Pamela Jean Hopkins requests judicial review of the final
decision of the Defendant, Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”), denying Hopkins'
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.
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 her physical
or mental limitations prevent her from doing not only her
previous work, but any other kind of gainful employment which
exists in the national economy, considering her age,
education, and work experience. 42 U.S.C. §
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, she is
not disabled, despite her medical condition and other
factors. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). At step two, if
the claimant does not have a “severe” impairment
(i.e., one that significantly limits her 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 her past relevant work,
she 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, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
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.
protectively filed for DIB and SSI on May 22, 2012, alleging
that she became disabled on February 16, 2012, due to various
medical conditions. Hopkins' application was denied
initially on September 14, 2012, and upon reconsideration on
January 7, 2013.
Hopkins requested and received a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). A video
hearing, during which Hopkins was represented by counsel, was
held by ALJ Mario G. Silva on September 3, 2014. An impartial
vocational expert also appeared and testified at the hearing.
Hopkins submitted post-hearing evidence regarding the duties
of a school nurse as actually peformed by one of Hopkins'
colleagues. The ALJ issued his decision denying Hopkins'
claim on October 14, 2014. After the Appeals Council denied
his request for review, Hopkins filed this timely appeal.
was born on March 19, 1959. She graduated from high school
and has two years of post-high school education. She was
engaged in substantial gainful activity through May 2012;
however, there was a continuous 12-month period during which
she had not engaged in substantial gainful activity. She has
past relevant work as a school nurse.
THE ALJ'S DECISION
one of the sequential evaluation, the ALJ determined that
Hopkins had engaged in substantial gainful activity through
May 2012, because she had not carried her burden of proof
showing that the two-month return to work after a six-week
medical leave of absence was an unsuccessful work attempt.
However, the ALJ determined that there had been a continuous
12-month period during which the claimant was not engaged in
successful gainful activity. At steps two and three, the ALJ
concluded the claimant suffered from the following severe
impairments: chronic cervical pain syndrome status post
remote multilevel cervical fusion, degenerative disc disease
of the cervical spine with residual right sided
radiculopathy, and brachial neuritis or radiculitis, but that
her impairments, singly or in combination, did not meet or
medically equal a listed impairment. At step four, the ALJ
determined that Hopkins had the following Residual Functional
[T]he claimant can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, and
she can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel and crouch, but
she can never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds, and she can
never crawl. The claimant is further limited to no more than
occasional rotation of the neck, from side to side, she can
occasionally reach overhead bilaterally, and she can
frequently reach in all other directions bilaterally, but she
is unable to extend her bilateral upper extremity reach more
than 18 inches from the body, and she is further limited to
no more than occasional exposure to hazards such as dangerous
moving machinery or unprotected heights, and no more than
occasional exposure to vibration.
Id. The ALJ concluded Hopkins was able to perform
her past relevant work as a school nurse. Accordingly, the
ALJ concluded that Hopkins was not disabled ...