United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY REVIEWING THE COMMISSIONER'S
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge
Michael Kelley applied for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income from the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) on February 26,
2013, alleging an onset date of March 31, 2010. [Filing No.
14-5 at 2-14.] His applications were denied initially on June
26, 2013, [Filing No. 14-4 at 2-19], and upon reconsideration
on August 21, 2013, [Filing No. 14-4 at 21-26].
Administrative Law Judge Lisa Martin (the
“ALJ”) held a hearing on November 12,
2014, [Filing No. 14-2 at 30-53], and issued a decision on
February 13, 2015, concluding that Mr. Kelley was not
entitled to receive disability insurance benefits or
supplemental security income, [Filing No. 14-2 at 13-22]. The
Appeals Council denied review on April 25, 2016. [Filing No.
14-2 at 2-4.] Mr. Kelley then filed this civil action, asking
the Court to review the denial of benefits pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) and 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c). [Filing
Kelley was thirty six years old when he filed for disability
insurance benefits and supplemental security income. [Filing
No. 14-5 at 2.] He has previous work experience as a forklift
driver, a construction worker, a tool rental clerk, and an
airport worker. [Filing No. 14-2 at 33-36; Filing No. 14-2 at
48-49.] Using the five-step sequential evaluation
set forth by the SSA in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4), the
ALJ issued an opinion on February 13, 2015, determining that
Mr. Kelley was not entitled to receive disability insurance
benefits or supplemental security income. [Filing No. 14-2 at
13-22.] The ALJ found as follows:
• At Step One of the analysis, the ALJ found that Mr.
Kelley had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since March 31, 2010, the alleged onset
date. [Filing No. 14-2 at 15.]
• At Step Two of the analysis, the ALJ found that Mr.
Kelley suffers from the following severe impairments:
cervical disorder and lumbar spine disorder with
radiculopathy. [Filing No. 14-2 at 15-16.]
• At Step Three of the analysis, the ALJ found that Mr.
Kelley did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one
of the listed impairments. [Filing No. 14-2 at 16.]
• After Step Three but before Step Four, the ALJ found
that Mr. Kelley has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform work at the light
exertional level as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b)
and 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b), with the following
limitations: “[T]he claimant needs a brief, one to two
minute, opportunity as often as every 30 minutes to change
positions. He must not perform ladders, ropes, or scaffolds
climbing, and he is limited to occasional postural motions
otherwise. He must not perform work around dangerous work
hazards including unprotected heights and exposed machinery.
Because of pain symptoms causing some distractions and
preventing detailed decision making, the claimant is limited
to routine, uninvolved tasks not requiring a fast assembly
quota pace, and not requiring more than occasional work
interactions with coworkers, supervisors, and public.”
[Filing No. 14-2 at 17-20.]
• At Step Four of the analysis, the ALJ found that Mr.
Kelley is unable to perform any past relevant work. [Filing
No. 14-2 at 20.]
• At Step Five of the analysis, the ALJ found that
considering Mr. Kelley's age, education, work experience,
and RFC, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in
the national economy that Mr. Kelley can perform -
specifically, ticket taker, price marker, and mailroom clerk.
[Filing No. 14-2 at 21.]
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
must apply the five-step inquiry set forth in 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v), evaluating the following, in
(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
Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir. 2000)
(citations omitted) (alterations in original). “If a
claimant satisfies steps one, two, and three, [he] will
automatically be found disabled. If a claimant satisfies
steps one and two, but not three, then [he] 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).
Step Three, but before Step Four, the ALJ must determine a
claimant's 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 his own past
relevant work and if not, at Step Five to determine whether
the claimant can perform other work. See20 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.
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 ...