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Ray v. Berryhill

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

September 12, 2017

CHAD RAY, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW

          HON. WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Chad Ray requests judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”), denying Ray's application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Insurance Benefits (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (“the Act”). The Court, having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, now rules as follows.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Ray protectively filed for DIB and SSI on July 9, 2013, alleging he became disabled on March 10, 2012. Ray's application was denied initially on October 3, 2013, and again upon reconsideration on December 11, 2013. Following the denial upon reconsideration, Ray requested and received a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). That hearing, during which Ray was represented by counsel, was held on December 10, 2014, before ALJ Karen Sayon by video conference. The ALJ issued her decision on January 22, 2015, denying Ray's claim. Ray requested review by the Appeals Council, and the Appeals Council denied the request for review on May 20, 2016. Ray then filed this timely appeal.

         II. APPLICABLE STANDARD

         Disability is defined as “the inability 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 12 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 which 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. § 416.920(a)(4)(i).[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. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii). 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. § 416.920(a)(4)(iii). At step four, if the claimant is able to perform her past relevant work, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iv). At step five, if the claimant can perform any other work in the national economy, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(v).

         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) (citation omitted). 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.” Dixon, 270 F.3d at 1176 (citations omitted).

         III. ALJ SAYON'S DECISION

         ALJ Sayon determined at step one that Ray had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 10, 2012, the alleged disability onset date. Record at 12. At step two, the ALJ concluded that Ray had the severe impairments of lumbar degenerative disc disease with radiculopathy and obesity, as well as hypertension and status post-surgery on his right shoulder and left knee, which she determined were non-severe impairments. Id. At step three, the ALJ determined that Ray's impairments did not meet or medically equal listing 1.04. R at 13. At step four, the ALJ determined that Ray had the following residual functional capacity (“RFC”):

[T]he claimant has the [RFC] to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c) except he can occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl; he cannot tolerate concentrated exposure to vibration; and he should have the ability to use a cane while ambulating.

R. at 14.

         The ALJ determined that Ray could not perform past relevant work, but would be capable of performing work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. R. at 18-19. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Ray was not disabled as defined by the Act.

         IV. EVIDE ...


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