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Webb v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

August 23, 2017

MISTY S. WEBB, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1]Defendant.



         Plaintiff Misty S. Webb seeks judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) on her application for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits (“DIB”), and supplemental security income (“SSI”). The Court rules as follows.


         Webb filed her application for a period of disability, DIB, and SSI in August 2013, alleging onset of disability on July 1, 2012. After the Commissioner denied Webb's application at the initial and reconsideration levels, she requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). The ALJ held a hearing on July 29, 2014, at which Webb and a vocational expert testified. The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) issued a decision in November 2014, finding that Webb was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Webb then filed this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision.


         Disability is defined as “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable mental or physical impairment which can be expected to result in death, or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). In order to be found disabled, a claimant must demonstrate that her physical or mental limitations prevent her from doing not only her previous work, but any other kind of gainful employment that exists in the national economy, considering her age, education, and work experience. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).

         In determining whether a claimant is disabled, the Commissioner employs a five-step sequential analysis. At step one, if the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity she is not disabled, despite her medical condition and other factors. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b).[2] At step two, if the claimant does not have a “severe” impairment (i.e., one that significantly limits her ability to perform basic work activities), she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). At step three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments meets or medically equals any impairment that appears in the Listing of Impairments, 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, App. 1, and whether the impairment meets the twelvemonth durational requirement; if so, the claimant is deemed disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). At step four, if the claimant is able to perform her past relevant work, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f). At step five, if the claimant can perform any other work in the national economy, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(g).

         In reviewing the ALJ's decision, the ALJ's findings of fact are conclusive and must be upheld by this court “so long as substantial evidence supports them and no error of law occurred.” Dixon v. Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1176 (7th Cir. 2001). “Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, ” id., and this Court may not reweigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. Overman v. Astrue, 546 F.3d 456, 462 (7th Cir. 2008). In order to be affirmed, the ALJ must articulate her analysis of the evidence in her decision; while she “is not required to address every piece of evidence or testimony presented, ” she must “provide an accurate and logical bridge between the evidence and her conclusion that a claimant is not disabled.” Kastner v. Astrue, 697 F.3d 642, 646 (7th Cir. 2012). “If a decision lacks evidentiary support or is so poorly articulated as to prevent meaningful review, a remand is required.” Id. (citation omitted).


         The ALJ found at step one that Webb had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 1, 2012, the alleged disability onset date. At step two, the ALJ determined that Webb had the following severe impairments: panic with agoraphobia/social phobia; anxiety; depression; osteoarthritis of the hips; osteitis condensans; and residual effect of remote fracture of the right tibia/fibula with internal fixation. The ALJ found at step three that these impairments did not, individually or in combination, meet or equal the severity of one of the listed impairments. The ALJ's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) determination was as follows:

[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work with postural, environmental, and mental limitations as described:
More specifically, the claimant has the capacity to occasionally lift and carry 20 pounds and to frequently lift and carry 10 pounds. The claimant has the unlimited capacity to push and pull with the upper extremities up to the weight capacity for lifting and carrying. The claimant has the capacity for occasional operation of foot controls with the right leg/foot. The claimant has the capacity to stand and walk 6-8 hours in an 8-hour workday and has the capacity to sit 6-8 hours in an 8hour workday. The claimant has the capacity to frequently stoop and crouch; and to occasionally kneel, crawl, and climb stairs and ramps. The claimant should never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The claimant has no limitations in manipulative abilities or in the ability to balance. Mentally, the claimant has the capacity to understand, remember, and carry out simple, routine tasks. In so doing, the claimant has the capability to utilize common sense understanding to carry out instructions, to deal with several concrete variables in standardized situations, and to sustain this mental ability consistent with the normal demands of a workday including regular breaks and meal periods. The claimant has the capacity to appropriately interact with supervisors and for occasional interaction with coworkers, and the general public. The claimant has the capacity to identify and avoid normal work place hazards and to adapt to routine changes in the work place.

R. at 17. The ALJ concluded at step four that Webb had no past relevant work. At step five, the ALJ found that, considering her age, education, work experience, and RFC, there were jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Webb could perform, including cleaner, assembler, and machine tender. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Webb was not disabled.


         The details of Webb's medical history are set forth quite thoroughly in her brief and the ALJ's decision and need not be repeated here. Facts directly relevant to ...

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