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Bishop v. Berryhill

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

August 30, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.


          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge.

         Plaintiff Michael R. Bishop requests judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”), denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Insurance Benefits (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (“the Act”). The Court rules as follows.


         Bishop filed his application for DIB and SSI in January 2013, alleging disability beginning on July 7, 2012, due to neck problems, back problems, arthritis, and tennis elbow. His application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, whereupon he requested and was granted a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). Bishop was represented by counsel at the hearing, which was held on October 23, 2014, before ALJ Julia D. Gibbs. Bishop and a vocational expert testified at the hearing. Thereafter, on November 14, 2014, the ALJ rendered her decision in which she concluded that Bishop was not disabled as defined by the Act. After the Appeals Council denied Bishop's request for review of the ALJ's decision, he filed this timely action for judicial review.


         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 that 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). The ALJ is required to articulate only a minimal, but legitimate, justification for her acceptance or rejection of specific evidence of disability. Scheck v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 697, 700 (7th Cir. 2004). 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, ” she must “provide some glimpse into her reasoning . . . [and] build an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to her conclusion.” Id.


         The ALJ found at step one that Bishop had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date of July 7, 2012. At steps two and three, the ALJ found that Bishop had the severe impairments of degenerative disc disease with radiculopathy, generalized osteoarthritis involving multiple sites, and tendonitis of the elbow, but that his impairments, singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment. At step four, the ALJ concluded that Bishop had

the residual functional capacity to perform work at a light level of exertion (as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b)) that can be done either sitting or standing and thus allows the claimant to alternate between the two positions every thirty minutes without leaving the work site or discontinuing work activity; and that does not require the following: working above shoulder level, or more than frequent use of the hands for fingering and grasping.

         R. at 21. Given this residual functional capacity (“RFC”), the ALJ determined that Bishop was not able to perform his past relevant work as a manager, mechanic, or small engine mechanic. At step five, the ALJ found that there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Bishop could perform, including wiring assembler, electronics worker, and counter clerk. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Bishop was not disabled as defined by the Act.


         The evidence of record is aptly set forth in the ALJ's decision and Bishop's brief. Specific facts ...

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