United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
TIMOTHY A. DELONG, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ENTRY REVIEWING THE COMMISSIONER'S
Jane Magnus-Stinson, United States District Court Chief Judge
Timothy DeLong applied for disability insurance benefits from
the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) on February 11, 2010, alleging
an onset date of June 6, 2008. [Filing No. 12-4 at 7.] His
application was denied initially on April 20, 2010, and upon
reconsideration on July 28, 2010. [Filing No. 12-4 at 7.]
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Angela
Miranda held a video hearing on August 23, 2011, and issued a
decision on November 29, 2011, concluding that Mr. DeLong was
not entitled to receive benefits. [Filing No. 12-4 at 7-18.]
On October 18, 2012, the Appeals Council vacated and remanded
the ALJ's decision after it received additional evidence.
[Filing No. 12-4 at 22-23.] On September 24, 2013, the ALJ
held another video hearing, [Filing No. 12-2 at 52], and
issued a decision on August 26, 2014, concluding once again
that Mr. DeLong was not entitled to receive benefits. [Filing
No. 12-2 at 32-46.] The Appeals Council denied review on
March 14, 2016, [Filing No. 12-2 at 3], rendering the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner of
the SSA (the “Commissioner”), [Filing
No. 12-2 at 32-46]. Mr. DeLong then filed this civil action
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), requesting that the Court
review the Commissioner's decision. [Filing No. 1.]
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. See20 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
DeLong was born in 1964, [Filing No. 12-2 at 65], has
completed some college, [Filing No. 12-2 at 68], and has
previous work experience as a warehouse worker, [Filing No.
12-2 at 44]. 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 August 26, 2014, determining that
Mr. DeLong was not entitled to receive disability benefits.
[Filing No. 12-2 at 32-46.] The ALJ found as follows:
• At Step One of the analysis, the ALJ found that Mr.
DeLong had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date. [Filing No.
12-2 at 35.]
• At Step Two of the analysis, the ALJ found that Mr.
DeLong suffered from the following severe impairments:
“(1) back impairments variously assessed as
dextroscoliosis, chronic compression deformities of T10 and
T11, levoscoliosis, disc degeneration of T12-L1 and L1-L2,
and scoliosis; (2) cervical spine dysfunction described as
mild cervical spondylosis; (3) mild developmental dysplasia
of the right hip and sciatica; and (4) mental impairments
assessed as anxiety, depression, and memory loss likely
secondary to depression and anxiety.” [Filing No. 12-2
• At Step Three of the analysis, the ALJ found that Mr.
DeLong did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one