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Vineyard v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

September 27, 2017

GAIL G. VINEYARD, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Defendant.

          ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW

          MARK J. DINSMORE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Gail G. Vineyard (“Vineyard”) requests judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”). See42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423(d), 1382c(a)(3)(A). For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is REVERSED AND REMANDED.

         I. Background

         Vineyard filed an application for DIB on April 9, 2013, alleging an onset of disability date of January 1, 2010. [Dkt. 10-5 at 225.] Vineyard alleges disability due to depression, anxiety, adjustment disorder with anxiety and depressed mood, alcohol abuse, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, carpal tunnel syndrome, obesity, and irritable bowel syndrome.[1][Dkt. 10-2 at 15.] Vineyard's application was initially denied on June 28, 2013, and denied again on August 5, 2013, upon reconsideration. [Dkt. 10-4 at 129-145.] Vineyard timely filed a written request for a hearing, which was held on March 4, 2015, before Administrative Law Judge John Metz. (“ALJ”). [Id. at 146-147.] The ALJ issued a decision on April 1, 2015, again denying Vineyard's application for DBI. [Dkt. 10-2 at 10.] On August 15, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Vineyard's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision for purposes of judicial review. [Dkt. 10-2 at 1.] Vineyard timely filed her Complaint with this Court on October 18, 2016, which Complaint is now before the Court.

         II. Legal Standard

         To be eligible for DIB or SSI, a claimant must have a disability pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423.[2] 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).

         To determine whether a claimant is disabled, the Commissioner, as represented by the ALJ, employs a five-step sequential analysis: (1) if the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, she is not disabled; (2) if the claimant does not have a “severe” impairment, one that significantly limits his ability to perform basic work activities, she is not disabled; (3) if the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments meets or medically equals any impairment appearing in the Listing of Impairments, 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpart P, App. 1, the claimant is disabled; (4) if the claimant is not found to be disabled at step three and she is able to perform her past relevant work, she is not disabled; and (5) if the claimant is not found to be disabled at step three and cannot perform her past relevant work but she can perform certain other available work, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. Before proceeding from step three to step four, the ALJ must assess the claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC), identifying the claimant's functional limitations and assessing the claimant's remaining capacity for work-related activities. S.S.R. 96-8p.

         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.This Court may not reweigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ but may only determine whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's conclusion. Overman v. Astrue, 546 F.3d 456, 462 (7th Cir. 2008) (citing Schmidt v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 970, 972 (7th Cir. 2000); Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d 836, 841 (7th Cir. 2007)). The ALJ “need not evaluate in writing every piece of testimony and evidence submitted.” Carlson v. Shalala, 999 F.2d 180, 181 (7th Cir. 1993) (citing Stephens v. Heckler, 766 F.2d 284, 287 (7th Cir. 1985); Zblewski v. Schweiker, 732 F.2d 75, 79 (7th Cir. 1984)). However, the “ALJ's decision must be based upon consideration of all the relevant evidence.” Herron v. Shalala, 19 F.3d 329, 333 (7th Cir. 1994). 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, ” he must “provide some glimpse into his reasoning” and “build an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to [his] conclusion.” Dixon, 270 F.3d at 1176.

         III. The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ first determined that Vineyard has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 1, 2010, the alleged onset date. [Dkt. 10-2 at 15.] At step two, the ALJ determined that Vineyard “has the following severe impairments: depression, anxiety, adjustment disorder with anxiety and depressed mood, alcohol abuse, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, carpal tunnel syndrome, obesity, and irritable bowel syndrome.” [Id.] However, at step three, the ALJ found that Vineyard does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals a listed impairment. [Id.] In making this determination, the ALJ considered Listings 1.02 (Dysfunction of a Joint Due to Any Cause), 1.04 (Disorder of the Spine), 5.06 (Inflammatory Bowel Disease), 12.04 (Affective Disorders), 12.06 (Anxiety Related Disorders), 12.09 (Substance Addiction Disorders), and Social Security Ruling 02-1p (Obesity). [Dkt. 10-2 at 16.]

         The ALJ next analyzed Vineyard's residual functional capacity (“RFC”). He concluded that Vineyard had the RFC to perform a range of light work except:

[Claimant can] lift and carry ten pounds frequently and twenty pounds occasionally with pushing and pulling the same, sit six hours in an eight-hour workday, stand six hours in an eight-hour workday, walk six hours in an eight-hour workday, occasionally bend, stoop, crawl or kneel; occasionally climb stairs or ramps; never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolding; frequently reach forward bilaterally; occasionally reach overhead bilaterally; never be exposed to unprotected heights or moving machinery; occasional driving and occasional use of foot controls; simple and repetitive tasks akin to unskilled work; occasional contact with the public and peers; a job with regular work expectations whatever you do on Monday the same the rest of the week with little or no change, and no fast-paced or factory work.

         In finding these limitations, the ALJ considered Vineyard's “symptoms and the extent to which these symptoms can reasonably be accepted as consistent with the objective medical evidence and other evidence.” [Dkt. 10-2 at 19.] At step four, the ALJ concluded that the Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work. [Dkt. 10-2 at 24.] The ALJ thus proceeded to step five, at which time he received testimony from the vocational expert indicating that someone with Plaintiff's education, work experience, age, and RFC would be able to perform unskilled light occupations such as a housekeeping cleaner and inspector. Because these jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. [Dkt. 10-2 at 26.]

         IV. ...


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