United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
DEMIA R. CALLAHAN, Plaintiff,
NANCY BERRYHILL,  Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ENTRY REVIEWING THE COMMISSIONER'S
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge
August 10, 2012, Demia R. Callahan filed a claim for
disability insurance benefits alleging a disability onset
date of March 11, 2011. [Filing No. 13-2 at 16.] Her
claim was denied initially on October 17, 2012 and upon
reconsideration on January 22, 2013. [Filing No. 13-2 at
16.] A hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge
Ronald T. Jordan (the “ALJ”) on October
16, 2014. [Filing No. 13-2 at 16.] The ALJ issued a
decision on December 9, 2014, determining that Ms. Callahan
was not disabled as defined by the Social Security Act.
[Filing No. 13-2 at 28.] The Appeals Council denied
Ms. Callahan's request for review on February 9, 2016,
making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final
decision subject to judicial review. [Filing No. 13-2 at
2.] Ms. Callahan now seeks judicial review under 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), asking this Court to review her denial
of benefits. [Filing No. 1.]
Social Security Act authorizes payment of disability
insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income to
individuals with disabilities.” Barnhart v.
Walton, 535 U.S. 212, 214 (2002). “The statutory
definition of ‘disability' has two parts. First, it
requires a certain kind of inability, namely, an inability to
engage in any substantial gainful activity. Second it
requires an impairment, namely, a physical or mental
impairment, which provides reason for the inability. The
statute adds that the impairment must be one that has lasted
or can be expected to last ... not less than 12
months.” Id. at 217.
applicant appeals an adverse benefits decision, this
Court's role is limited to ensuring that the ALJ applied
the correct legal standards and that substantial evidence
exists for the ALJ's decision. Barnett v.
Barnhart, 381 F.3d 664, 668 (7th Cir. 2004) (citation
omitted). For the purpose of judicial review,
“[s]ubstantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. (quotation omitted). Because
the ALJ “is in the best position to determine the
credibility of witnesses, ” Craft v. Astrue,
539 F.3d 668, 678 (7th Cir. 2008), this Court must afford the
ALJ's credibility determination “considerable
deference, ” overturning it only if it is
“patently wrong.” Prochaska v. Barnhart,
454 F.3d 731, 738 (7th Cir. 2006) (quotations omitted).
must apply the five-step inquiry set forth in 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v), evaluating the following, in
sequence: “(1) whether the claimant is currently
[un]employed; (2) whether the claimant has a severe
impairment; (3) whether the claimant's impairment meets
or equals one of the impairments listed by the
[Commissioner]; (4) whether the claimant can perform his past
work; and (5) whether the claimant is capable of performing
work in the national economy.” Clifford v.
Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir. 2000) (citations
omitted) (alterations in original).
a claimant satisfies steps one, two, and three, [she] will
automatically be found disabled. If a claimant satisfies
steps one and two, but not three, then [she] must satisfy
step four. Once step four is satisfied, the burden shifts to
the SSA to establish that the claimant is capable of
performing work in the national economy.” Knight v.
Chater, 55 F.3d 309, 313 (7th Cir. 1995).
After Step Three, but before Step Four, the ALJ must
determine a claimant's Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”) by evaluating “all
limitations that arise from medically determinable
impairments, even those that are not severe.”
Villano v. Astrue, 556 F.3d 558, 563 (7th Cir.
2009). In doing so, the ALJ “may not dismiss a line of
evidence contrary to the ruling.” Id.The ALJ
uses the RFC at Step Four to determine whether the claimant
can perform her own past relevant work and if not, at Step
Five to determine whether the claimant can perform other
work. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(E)(g). The
burden of proof is on the claimant for Steps One through
Four; only at Step Five does the burden shift to the
Commissioner. Clifford, 227 F.3d at 868. If the ALJ
committed no legal error and substantial evidence exists to
support the ALJ's decision, the Court must affirm the
denial of benefits. Barnett, 381 F.3d at 668. When
an ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial
evidence, a remand for further proceedings is typically the
appropriate remedy. Briscoe ex rel. Taylor v.
Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 355 (7th Cir. 2005). An award of
benefits “is appropriate only where all factual issues
have been resolved and the record can yield but one
supportable conclusion.” Id. (citation
Callahan was 40 years old on her disability onset
date. [Filing No. 13-2 at 27.] She
completed some high school and earned a GED. [Filing No.
13-3 at 10.] Her previous work experience includes
working as a nurse's aide, job coach, and waitress.
[Filing No. 13-3 at 10.] Ms. Callahan seeks
disability benefits because of functional limitations due to
fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease, chronic pain, and
depression. [Filing No. 13-3 at 3.]
the five-step sequential evaluation set forth by the Social
Security Administration in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4),
the ALJ ultimately concluded that Ms. Callahan is not
disabled. [Filing No. 13-2 at 28.] The ALJ found as
• At Step One of the analysis, the ALJ found that Ms.
Callahan meets the insured status requirements of the Social
Security Act and has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since her alleged onset date. [Filing No.
13-2 at 18.]
• At Step Two of the analysis, the ALJ found that Ms.
Callahan has the following severe impairments: degenerative
disc disease; fibromyalgia; migraines/headaches; depression;
and anxiety disorders. [Filing No. 13-2 at 18.]
• At Step Three of the analysis, the ALJ concluded that
Ms. Callahan did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one
of the listed impairments. [Filing No. 13-2 at
19-21.] The ALJ considered various listings in making
that conclusion, but ultimately ...