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Jones v. Berryhill

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

September 26, 2017

RICHARD E. JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW

          Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

         Plaintiff Richard E. Jones requests judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security (the “Commissioner”), who denied Jones' applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 416, 423, & 1382c.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         On June 22, 2012, Jones filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits as well as for supplemental security income. He alleges disability beginning June 9, 2012, due to multiple orthopedic injuries sustained in a motor cycle accident, traumatic brain injury with cognitive disorder, depression, anxiety, and personality disorder. After denials at the initial and reconsideration levels, Jones filed a request for a hearing before an ALJ.

         A video hearing was held on January 15, 2015, before ALJ William E. Sampson who presided from Valparaiso, Indiana. Jones appeared in Lafayette, Indiana, and was represented by Ashley Marks, an attorney. Thomas Grzesik, a vocational expert, also appeared. On August 12, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision denying Jones benefits. On April 11, 2016, the Appeals Council upheld the ALJ's decision and denied the request for review. This action for judicial review ensued.

         II. STANDARD

         To be eligible for DIB or SSI, [2] a claimant must have a disability under 42 U.S.C. § 423. “Disability” means the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months. 42 U.S.C. § 423 (d)(1)(A). To determine whether or not a claimant is disabled, the ALJ applies a five-step process set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4):

I. If the claimant is employed in substantial gainful activity, the claimant is not disabled.
II. If the claimant does not have a severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments that meets the duration requirement, the claimant is not disabled.
III. If the claimant has an impairment that meets or is equal to an impairment listed in the appendix to this section and satisfies the duration requirement, the claimant is disabled.
IV. If the claimant can still perform the claimant's past relevant work given the claimant's residual functional capacity, the claimant is not disabled.
V. If the claimant can perform other work given the claimant's residual functional capacity, age, education, and experience, the claimant is not disabled.

         The burden of proof is on the claimant for the first four steps, but then it shifts to the Commissioner at the fifth step. See Young v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 957 F.2d 386, 389 (7th Cir. 1992).

         The Social Security Act, specifically 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), provides for judicial review of the Commissioner's denial of benefits. When the Appeals Council denies review of the ALJ's findings, the ALJ's findings become findings of the Commissioner. See Craft v. Astrue, 539 F.3d 668, 673 (7th Cir. 2008); Hendersen v. Apfel, 179 F.3d 507, 512 (7th Cir. 1999). This Court will sustain the ALJ's findings if they are supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Craft, 539 F.3d at 673; Nelson v. Apfel, 131 F.3d 1228, 1234 (7th Cir. 1999). “Substantial evidence is ‘such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'” Craft, 539 F.3d at 673 (quoting Barnett v. Barnhart, 381 F.3d ...


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