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Fawbush v. Berryhill

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

September 29, 2017

CHRISTY JO FAWBUSH, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge.

         Plaintiff Christy Jo Fawbush requests judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”), denying Fawbush'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, [2] now rules as follows.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Fawbush filed for DIB and SSI on July 15, 2013, alleging she became disabled on November 30, 2011. Fawbush's application was denied initially on September 23, 2013, and again upon reconsideration. Following the denial upon reconsideration, Fawbush requested and received a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). That hearing, during which Fawbush was represented by counsel, was held by video conference on June 12, 2014, before ALJ Lisa B. Martin, who was in Falls Church, Virginia. After the hearing, Fawbush submitted additional evidence that was also reviewed by the ALJ. The ALJ issued her decision on November 26, 2014, denying Fawbush's claim. Fawbush requested review by the Appeals Council, and the Appeals Council denied the request for review on March 29, 2016. Fawbush 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).[3] 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 MARTIN'S DECISION

         ALJ Martin determined at step one that Fawbush had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 30, 2011, the alleged disability onset date. Record at 21. At step two, the ALJ concluded that Fawbush had the severe impairments of lumbar and cervical spine disorder, bilateral knee arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraines, sleep apnea, edema, obesity, and affective disorder. R. at 22. At step three, the ALJ determined that Fawbush's impairments did not meet or medically equal Listings 1.00, 1.02, 1.04, 3.10, 4.00 et seq., 11.00 et seq., 12.02, 12.04, 12.06, 12.07, or 14.09D. R at 22. At step four, the ALJ determined that Fawbush had the following residual functional capacity (“RFC”):

[T]he claimant has the [RFC] to perform a full range of light work . . ., except the claimant needs a brief sitting down opportunity hourly for 1-2 minutes in addition to normal work breaks; is limited to four hours of standing/walking, with the remaining time being sitting, in an eight-hour work day; must avoid all climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; is limited to occasional postural motions otherwise; is limited to occasional overhead reaching tasks; must avoid all exposure to dangerous work hazards (i.e., unprotected heights and exposed machinery); must avoid all exposure to extreme heat, humidity, and cold conditions. Because of pain symptoms and mental distractions preventing detailed decision-making, the claimant is also limited to routine, uninvolved tasks not requiring a fast assembly quota pace.

R. at 24.

         The ALJ determined that Fawbush could not perform past relevant work, but would be capable of performing work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. R. at 30-31. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Fawbush was not disabled as defined by the Act.

         IV. EVIDE ...


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