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Bogner v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

July 10, 2017

REBECCA SUE BOGNER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          William C. Lee, United States District Judge.

         This 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 U.S.C. §405(g).

         The law 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 Cir. 1970).

         Given 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. 1980).

         In the present matter, after consideration of the entire record, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) made the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2017.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 22, 2013, the date the claimant became disabled (20 CFR 404.1520(b), 404.1571 et seq., 416.920(b) and 416.971 et seq.).
3. From March 22, 2013 through March 1, 2015, the period during which the claimant was under a disability, the claimant had the following severe impairments: degenerative joint disease of the right hip, status post total hip arthroplasty in April 2013, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, status post back surgery in January 2015, osteoarthritis of the knees bilaterally and morbid obesity (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
4. From March 22, 2013 through March 1, 2015, the claimant did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of an impairment listed 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, from March 22, 2013 through March 1, 2015, the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a), in that she was capable of sitting 6 hours out of an 8-hour workday, standing and/or walking 2 hours out of an 8-hour workday, lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling 10 lbs. frequents and occasionally throughout the workday, and could perform work requiring occasional use of pedals and controls with the feet. She required opportunity to alternate postural positions every 20 minutes while remaining on task, and was limited to occasional use of ramps and stairs, one to two flights with rails, as well as occasional balancing, occasional bending and stooping in addition to what is already required to sit, occasional kneeling, occasional crouching, no crawling, and not climbing of ropes, ladder, or scaffolds. The claimant could perform no work on wet surfaces, no work within close proximity to hazards of open heights and open and dangerous machinery, and required a cane for prolonged ambulation upon uneven surfaces.
6. From March 22, 2013 through March 1, 2015, the claimant was unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was an individual of advanced age, on the established disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).
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. The claimant's acquired job skills do not transfer to other occupations with the residual functional capacity defined above(20 CFR 404.1568 and 416.968).
10. From March 22, 2013 through March 1, 2015, considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there were no jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant could have performed (20 CFR 404.156o(c), 404.1566, 416.960(c), and 416.966).
11. The claimant was under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from March 22, 2013 through March 1, 2015 (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).
12. The claimant has not developed any new impairment or impairments since March 2, 2015, the date the claimant's disability ended. Thus, the claimant's current severe impairments are the same as that present from March 22, 2013 through March 1, 2015.
13. Beginning March 2, 2015, the claimant has not had an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the impairments listed in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1594(f)(2) and 416.994(b)(5)(i)).
The objective medical record does not establish that the severity of the claimant's impairments, individually or in combination, ...

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