United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
JOSEPH L. LANDER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ENTRY REVIEWING THE COMMISSIONER'S
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge
Joseph Lander applied for disability insurance benefits from
the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) on
November 2, 2012, alleging an onset date of May 29, 2012.
[Filing No. 14-6 at 2.] His application was denied initially
on March 5, 2012, [Filing No. 14-4 at 4], and upon
reconsideration on June 14, 2013, [Filing No. 14-4 at 24].
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) David Welch held
a hearing on November 14, 2014, [Filing No. 14-2 at 35], and
issued a decision on January 30, 2015, concluding that Mr.
Lander was not entitled to receive benefits, [Filing No. 14-2
at 12-26]. The Appeals Council denied review on July 15,
2016, [Filing No. 14-2 at 2], rendering the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner of the SSA
(the “Commissioner”), [Filing No. 14-2 at 12-26].
Mr. Lander then filed this civil action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), requesting that the Court review the
Commissioner's decision. [Filing No. 1.]
“The 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 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 his 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.
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 omitted).
Lander was born in 1976, [Filing No. 14-6 at 8], has obtained
a GED, [Filing No. 14-2 at 43], and has previous work
experience as a welder, shipping and receiving clerk,
material handler, and overhead crane operator, [Filing No.
14-2 at 24]. 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 January 30, 2015, determining that
Mr. Lander was not entitled to receive disability benefits.
[Filing No. 14-2 at 12-26.] The ALJ found as follows:
• At Step One of the analysis, the ALJ found that Mr.
Lander had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date. [Filing No.
14-2 at 14.]
• At Step Two of the analysis, the ALJ found that Mr.
Lander suffered from the following severe impairments:
“Chronic heart failure, cardiomyopathy, post cardiac
defibrillator implantation; [t]ransient ischemic attack,
historically; [c]ardiac arrhythmias, including
Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome and left bundle branch block;
and [m]ajor ...