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Franklin v. Berryhill

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

August 29, 2017

BRIAN FRANKLIN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, [1]Defendant.

          ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge United States District Court Southern District of Indiana

         Plaintiff Brian Franklin requests judicial review of the final decision of the Defendant, Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”), Franklin's applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act between April 13, 2006, and March 1, 2009. The Court, having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, rules as follows.

         I. APPLICABLE STANDARD

         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 his physical or mental limitations prevent him from doing not only his previous work, but any other kind of gainful employment which exists in the national economy, considering his 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, he is not disabled, despite his 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 his ability to perform basic work activities), he 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 duration 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 his past relevant work, he 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, he 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 his analysis of the evidence in his decision; while he “is not required to address every piece of evidence or testimony presented, ” he must “provide an accurate and logical bridge between the evidence and [his] 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).

         II. BACKGROUND

         Franklin filed for DIB and SSI on May 21, 2008, alleging that he became disabled on April 13, 2006, due to coronary artery disease, prior myocardial infarction, prior myocardial dysfunction, prior stents with balloon angioplasty, pacemaker/defibrillator, prior congestive heart failure, and nonsustained ventricular tachycardia. After denials at the initial and reconsideration levels, Franklin filed a request for a hearing before an ALJ. Hearings were held in Indianapolis, Indiana on August 11, 2010, and September 20, 2010, before ALJ John H. Metz. Two medical experts and a vocational expert appeared and testified. On November 3, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision denying Franklin benefits, and on December 28, 2011, the Appeals Council upheld the ALJ's decision and denied the request for review. An action for judicial review ensued, and on February 21, 2013, this Court issued an Order reversing and remanding the decision of the Commissioner for further proceedings.

         Another hearing was held on July 28, 2014, before ALJ Metz in Indianapolis, Indiana. Franklin was represented by attorney Melissa Davidson, and a medical expert and vocational expert appeared. On September 17, 2014, the ALJ issued a partially favorable decision granting Franklin benefits as of March 1, 2009. On March 25, 2016, the Appeals Council upheld the ALJ's decision and denied the request for review. This action for judicial review ensued.

         III. THE ALJ'S DECISION

         At step one of the sequential evaluation, the ALJ determined that Franklin had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged disability onset date. The ALJ found that Franklin met the disability insured status requirements of the Act (for purposes of DIB) through June 30, 2012. At steps two and three, the ALJ concluded the claimant suffered from the following severe impairments: coronary artery disease, prior myocardial infarction, prior myocardial dysfunction, prior stents with balloon angioplasty, pacemaker/defibrillator, prior congestive heart failure, and nonsustained ventricular tachycardia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and hypertension (without end organ damage), but that his impairments, singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment prior to March 1, 2009. At step four, the ALJ determined that, prior to that date, Franklin had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a limited range of light work, and specifically could

stand no more than thirty minutes to one hour at one time, for a total of three hours out of an eight hour day; and he can walk no more than thirty minutes to one hour at one time, for a total of three hours out of an eight hour day. [Franklin] can no more than frequently reach, or perform pulling or pushing (bilaterally). He may no more than frequently operate foot controls (bilaterally). [Franklin] may no more than occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, or work around moving parts. He may no more than occasionally climb stairs, and can never climb ladders, scaffolds, or ropes. [Franklin] can never work at unprotected heights, and should avoid exposure to dust, odors, respiratory irritants, and temperature extremes. He can never perform commercial driving.

R. at 853. The ALJ concluded that Franklin was unable to perform his past relevant work but that, prior to March 1, 2009, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Franklin could have performed. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that, prior to March 1, 2009, Franklin was not disabled as defined by the Act.

         IV. EVIDE ...


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