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Caperton v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 30, 2017

TAMMY A. CAPERTON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge United States District Court

         Plaintiff Tammy Caperton requests judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”), denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). The Court rules as follows.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Caperton protectively filed her application for DIB in January 2013, alleging onset of disability on January 22, 2013. The Social Security Administration initially denied Caperton's application on April 9, 2013. After Caperton timely requested reconsideration, the Social Security Administration again denied her claim on June 11, 2013. Thereafter, Caperton requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). The ALJ held a hearing on July 24, 2014, at which Caperton and a vocational expert testified. The ALJ issued her decision denying Caperton's DIB application on August 9, 2014. After the Appeals Council denied Caperton's request for review, she filed this action seeking judicial review.

         II. EVIDENCE OF RECORD

         The relevant evidence of record is amply set forth in the parties' briefs and need not be repeated here. Specific facts relevant to the Court's disposition of this case are discussed below.

         III. APPLICABLE STANDARD

         Disability 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 that exists in the national economy, considering her age, education, and work experience. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).

         In 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), she 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 durational 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. § 404.1520(g).

         In 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 her analysis of the evidence in her decision; while she “is not required to address every piece of evidence or testimony presented, ” she must “provide an accurate and logical bridge between the evidence and her 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. (citation omitted).

         IV. THE ALJ'S DECISION

         The ALJ found at step one that Caperton had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged disability onset date. At step two, the ALJ determined that Caperton had the severe impairment of rheumatoid arthritis and non-severe impairments of osteoarthritis of the bilateral hands, carpal tunnel syndrome, depression, and adjustment disorder. The ALJ found at step three that these impairments did not, individually or in combination, meet or equal the severity of one of the listed impairments. The ALJ's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) determination was as follows:

[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except she can lift and carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; sit for approximately 6 hours in an 8-hour day; stand and walk approximately 6 hours in an 8-hour day; occasionally bend, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, or climb ramps and stairs; never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; and frequently finger with the bilateral upper extremities.

R. at 81. The ALJ concluded at step four that Caperton could perform her past relevant work as a vocational instructor. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded ...


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