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Bowlin v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana

March 30, 2017

MARTIN J. BOWLIN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Martin Bowlin has appealed the Acting Commissioner's denial of Social Security Disability benefits. For the reasons stated below, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Acting Commissioner.

         A. Overview of the Case

         Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income with the Social Security Administration. Plaintiff pursued this application through proper administrative procedures, eventually finding himself before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ, after conducting a hearing, found that Plaintiff was not disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act from February 16, 2013, through March 17, 2014. (R. at 47-48).

         B. Standard of Review

         This Court has authority to review the Commissioner's decision under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). The Court must ensure that the ALJ has built an “accurate and logical bridge” from evidence to conclusion. Thomas v. Colvin, 745 F.3d 802, 806 (7th Cir. 2014). The Court will uphold decisions that apply the correct legal standard and are supported by substantial evidence. Briscoe ex rel. Taylor v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 351 (7th Cir. 2005). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Craft v. Astrue, 539 F.3d 668, 673 (7th Cir. 2008).

         C. Disability Standard

         The Commissioner follows a five-step inquiry in evaluating claims for disability benefits under the Social Security Act:

(1) whether the claimant is currently employed; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment; (3) whether the claimant's impairment is one that the Commissioner considers conclusively disabling; (4) if the claimant does not have a conclusively disabling impairment, whether he can perform his past relevant work; and (5) whether the claimant is capable of performing any work in the national economy.

Kastner v. Astrue, 697 F.3d 642, 646 (7th Cir. 2012). The claimant bears the burden of proof at every step except step five. Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir. 2000).

         D. Analysis

         Plaintiff alleges error in two primary respects: (1) the ALJ failed to properly evaluate Plaintiff's issue regarding work attendance and sustainability, thereby failing to properly consider it in the assessment of Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (RFC); and (2) the ALJ relied on an out-of-date medical opinion to support a “light” RFC when more recent evidence would have supported a more restricted RFC.

         (1) Work Attendance and Sustainability

         The vocational expert at the ALJ hearing testified that “if an individual misses two days of work per month or more, it will preclude employment both in the hypothetical individual's related past work or any job in the national economy.” (See R. at 110). The ALJ further clarified by asking: “So would this individual be able to do the jobs you previously identified at the sedentary level? The order clerk, the document preparer and the charge account clerk?” ...


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