United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY REVIEWING THE COMMISSIONER'S
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge
Latrice Utley filed for supplemental security income on April
27, 2012 and disability insurance benefits on May 3, 2012,
alleging a disability onset date of January 1, 2012.
[Filing No. 16-2 at 20.] Her applications were
denied initially, [Filing No. 16-4 at 4; Filing
No. 16-4 at 8], and upon reconsideration, [Filing
No. 16-4 at 13; Filing No. 16-4 at 20].
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) D.
Lyndell Pickett held a hearing on September 17, 2014.
[Filing No. 16-2 at 38.] On October 21, 2014, the
ALJ issued an opinion concluding that Ms. Utley was not
disabled as defined by the Social Security Act. [Filing
No. 16-2 at 20-31.] The Appeals Council denied review,
making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final
decision subject to judicial review. [Filing No. 16-2 at
20-31.] Ms. Utley filed this civil action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), asking this Court to review her denial
of benefits. [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 to support 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 [her] 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, [she] will
automatically be found disabled. If a claimant satisfies
steps one and two, but not three, then [she] 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 her 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
Utley was thirty-seven years old at the time she applied for
social security benefits. [Filing No. 16-3 at 2.]
She has obtained a GED and performed past relevant work as a
baker, laborer, lead coordinator, and machinist. [Filing
No. 16-6 at 6.]
followed the five-step sequential evaluation set forth by the
Social Security Administration in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4) and ultimately concluded that Ms. Utley is not
disabled. [Filing No. 16-2 at 20-31.] The ALJ found
• At Step One, the ALJ found that Ms. Utley has not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 1,
2012, the date of her application for benefits. [Filing
No. 16-2 at 22.]
• At Step Two, the ALJ found that Ms. Utley has the
following severe impairments: morbid obesity, degenerative
disc disease in the cervical and lumbar spine, left hip