United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
MICHAEL A. KEAL, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security, Administration, Defendant.
DECISION ON COMPLAINT FOR JUDICIAL REVIEW
McVicker Lynch United States Magistrate Judge.
Michael A. Keal applied for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits (DIB) under Title II of the
Social Security Act, alleging disability beginning July 10,
2012. Acting for the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration following a hearing held on September 17,
2014, administrative law judge (ALJ) D. Lyndell Pickett
issued a decision on October 28, 2014, concluding Mr. Keal is
not disabled. The Appeals Council denied review on February
26, 2016, rendering the ALJ's decision for the
Commissioner final. Mr. Keal timely filed this action under
42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for review of the Commissioner's
Keal contends the Commissioner's decision must be
reversed and remanded because (1) the ALJ erred at step 4
because his residual capacity finding precludes the ability
to perform Mr. Keal's past relevant “composite
job”, (2) the ALJ erred by failing to analyze properly
the opinion of the examining source, and (3) the ALJ
neglected to consider Mr. Keal's stellar work history in
assessing his credibility.
court will first describe the legal framework for analyzing
disability claims and the standard of review and then address
Mr. Keal's assertions of error.
for Proving Disability
prove disability, a claimant must show he is unable to
“engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason
of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment
which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted
or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not
less than twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A). Mr. Keal is disabled if his impairments are of
such severity that he is not able to perform the work he
previously engaged in and, if based on his age, education,
and work experience, he cannot engage in any other kind of
substantial gainful work that exists in significant numbers
in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(2)(A). The
Social Security Administration (“SSA”) has
implemented these statutory standards by, in part,
prescribing a five-step sequential evaluation process for
determining disability. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520.
one asks if the claimant is currently engaged in substantial
gainful activity; if he is, then he is not disabled. Step two
asks whether the claimant's impairments, singly or in
combination, are severe; if they are not, then he is not
disabled. A severe impairment is one that
“significantly limits [a claimant's] physical or
mental ability to do basic work activities.” 20 C.F.R.
§ 1520(c). The third step is an analysis of whether the
claimant's impairments, either singly or in combination,
meet or medically equal the criteria of any of the conditions
in the Listing of Impairments, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1. The Listing of Impairments includes medical
conditions defined by criteria that the SSA has predetermined
are disabling, so that if a claimant meets all of the
criteria for a listed impairment or presents medical findings
equal in severity to the criteria for the most similar listed
impairment, then the claimant is presumptively disabled and
qualifies for benefits. Sims v. Barnhart, 309 F.3d
424, 428 (7th Cir. 2002).
claimant's impairments do not satisfy a listing, then his
residual functional capacity (RFC) is determined for purposes
of steps four and five. RFC is a claimant's ability to do
work on a regular and continuing basis despite his
impairment-related physical and mental limitations. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1545. At the fourth step, if the claimant has the
RFC to perform his past relevant work, then he is not
disabled. The fifth step asks whether there is work in the
relevant economy that the claimant can perform, based on his
age, work experience, education, and RFC; if so, then he is
individual claiming disability bears the burden of proof at
steps one through four. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S.
137, 146 n.5 (1987). If the claimant meets that burden, then
the Commissioner has the burden at step five to show that
work exists in significant numbers in the national economy
that the claimant can perform, given his age, education, work
experience, and functional capacity. Young v.
Barnhart, 362 F.3d 995, 1000 (7th Cir. 2004); 20 C.F.R.
for Review of the ALJ's Decision
review of the Commissioner's (or ALJ's) factual
findings is deferential. A court must affirm if no error of
law occurred and if the findings are supported by substantial
evidence. Dixon v. Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1176
(7th Cir. 2001). Substantial evidence means evidence that a
reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. Id. The standard demands more than a
scintilla of evidentiary support, but does not demand a
preponderance of the evidence. Wood v. Thompson, 246
F.3d 1026, 1029 (7th Cir. 2001).
is required to articulate a minimal, but legitimate,
justification for the decision to accept or reject specific
evidence of a disability. Scheck v. Barnhart, 357
F.3d 697, 700 (7th Cir. 2004). The ALJ's decision need
not address every piece of evidence, but the ALJ cannot
ignore an entire line of evidence that undermines the
ALJ's conclusions, and the ALJ must connect the evidence
to his or her conclusions. Arnett v. Astrue, 676
F.3d 586, 592 (7th Cir. 2012).
The ALJ's ...