United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
MARGARET A. BLANKENSHIP, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
William C. Lee, Judge United States District Court.
matter is before the court for judicial review of a final
decision of the defendant Commissioner of Social Security
Administration denying Plaintiff's application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and for Supplemental
Security Income (SSI) as provided for in the Social Security
Act. 42 U.S.C. §416(I). Section 205(g) of the Act
provides, inter alia, "[a]s part of his answer, the
[Commissioner] shall file a certified copy of the transcript
of the record including the evidence upon which the findings
and decision complained of are based. The court shall have
the power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the
record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the
decision of the [Commissioner], with or without remanding the
case for a rehearing." It also provides, "[t]he
findings of the [Commissioner] as to any fact, if supported
by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive. . . ." 42
provides that an applicant for disability insurance benefits
must establish an "inability to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months. . . ." 42 U.S.C. §416(i)(1); 42 U.S.C.
§423(d)(1)(A). A physical or mental impairment is
"an impairment that results from anatomical,
physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are
demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques." 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(3). It is
not enough for a plaintiff to establish that an impairment
exists. It must be shown that the impairment is severe enough
to preclude the plaintiff from engaging in substantial
gainful activity. Gotshaw v. Ribicoff, 307 F.2d 840
(7th Cir. 1962), cert. denied, 372 U.S. 945 (1963);
Garcia v. Califano, 463 F.Supp. 1098 (N.D.Ill.
1979). It is well established that the burden of proving
entitlement to disability insurance benefits is on the
plaintiff. See Jeralds v. Richardson, 445 F.2d 36
(7th Cir. 1971); Kutchman v. Cohen, 425 F.2d 20 (7th
the foregoing framework, "[t]he question before [this
court] is whether the record as a whole contains substantial
evidence to support the [Commissioner's] findings."
Garfield v. Schweiker, 732 F.2d 605, 607 (7th Cir.
1984) citing Whitney v. Schweiker, 695 F.2d 784, 786
(7th Cir. 1982); 42 U.S.C. §405(g). "Substantial
evidence is defined as 'more than a mere scintilla. It
means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'"
Rhoderick v. Heckler, 737 F.2d 714, 715 (7th Cir.
1984) quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389,
401, 91 S.Ct. 1410, 1427 (1971); see Allen v.
Weinberger, 552 F.2d 781, 784 (7th Cir. 1977). "If
the record contains such support [it] must [be] affirmed, 42
U.S.C. §405(g), unless there has been an error of
law." Garfield, supra at 607; see
also Schnoll v. Harris, 636 F.2d 1146, 1150 (7th Cir.
present matter, after consideration of the entire record, the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) made the
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2014.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since December 19, 2008, the alleged onset date (20
CFR 404.1571 et seq. and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: low
back pain and polyarthritis; carpal tunnel syndrome with a
history of right-sided release surgery and trigger thumb of
the left hand; obesity; hyperlipidemia; reported heart
palpitations; allergic rhinitis; depression; anxiety; and
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)(20 CFR 404.1520(c) and
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526,
416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) (i.e. lifting, carrying,
pushing, and pulling up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10
pounds frequently; sitting up to 6/8 hours in an eight hour
workday), except for the following additional limitations:
she can do only occasional climbing of ramps and stairs;
occasional balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and
crawling; no climbing of ladders, ropes, and scaffolds;
frequent bilateral handling and fingering; must avoid
concentrated exposure to extremes of temperature, humidity,
wetness, and pulmonary irritants (i.e. fumes, odors, dust,
gases, poorly ventilated areas and chemicals); must avoid
concentrated exposure to workplace hazards such as dangerous
moving machinery, work at unprotected height and work on
slippery/uneven/moving surfaces. Mentally, the claimant is
precluded from understanding, remembering or carrying out
detailed or complex job instructions; cannot perform tasks
requiring intense/focused attention for prolonged periods of
time; limited to occasional work in close proximity to others
to minimize distractions; must have work at a flexible pace
(where the employee is allowed some independence in
determining either the timing of different work activities or
pace of work); allow only casual/superficial interaction with
others including supervisors, coworkers and the general
public; and no exposure to intense or critical supervision.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on May 3, 1967, and was 41 years
old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on
the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).
9. Transferability of job skills is not an issue in this case
because the claimant's past relevant work is unskilled