United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
KATRINA M. EVANS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
William C. Lee, Judge United States District Court.
matter is before the court for judicial review of a final
decision of the defendant Commissioner of Social Security
Administration denying Plaintiff's application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) as provided for in the
Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. §416(I). Section 205(g)
of the Act provides, inter alia, "[a]s part of his
answer, the [Commissioner] shall file a certified copy of the
transcript of the record including the evidence upon which
the findings and decision complained of are based. The court
shall have the power to enter, upon the pleadings and
transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or
reversing the decision of the [Commissioner], with or without
remanding the case for a rehearing." It also provides,
"[t]he findings of the [Commissioner] as to any fact, if
supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive. . .
." 42 U.S.C. §405(g).
provides that an applicant for disability insurance benefits
must establish an "inability to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to last for a continuous period of no less than 12
months. . . ." 42 U.S.C. §416(i)(1); 42 U.S.C.
§423(d)(1)(A). A physical or mental impairment is
"an impairment that results from anatomical,
physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are
demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques." 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(3). It is
not enough for a plaintiff to establish that an impairment
exists. It must be shown that the impairment is severe enough
to preclude the plaintiff from engaging in substantial
gainful activity. Gotshaw v. Ribicoff, 307 F.2d 840
(7th Cir. 1962), cert. denied, 372 U.S. 945 (1963);
Garcia v. Califano, 463 F.Supp. 1098 (N.D.Ill.
1979). It is well established that the burden of proving
entitlement to disability insurance benefits is on the
plaintiff. See Jeralds v. Richardson, 445 F.2d 36
(7th Cir. 1971); Kutchman v. Cohen, 425 F.2d 20 (7th
the foregoing framework, "[t]he question before [this
court] is whether the record as a whole contains substantial
evidence to support the [Commissioner's] findings."
Garfield v. Schweiker, 732 F.2d 605, 607 (7th Cir.
1984) citing Whitney v. Schweiker, 695 F.2d 784, 786
(7th Cir. 1982); 42 U.S.C. §405(g). "Substantial
evidence is defined as 'more than a mere scintilla. It
means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'"
Rhoderick v. Heckler, 737 F.2d 714, 715 (7th Cir.
1984) quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389,
401, 91 S.Ct. 1410, 1427 (1971); see Allen v.
Weinberger, 552 F.2d 781, 784 (7th Cir. 1977). "If
the record contains such support [it] must [be] affirmed, 42
U.S.C. §405(g), unless there has been an error of
law." Garfield, supra at 607; see
also Schnoll v. Harris, 636 F.2d 1146, 1150 (7th Cir.
present matter, after consideration of the entire record, the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) made the
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2018 (Ex 5D).
2. The claimant has not engaged in disqualifying work
activity since April 4, 2013, the alleged onset date (20 CFR
404.1571 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
disorders of the lumbar spine (degenerative changes at
multiple levels, status post L4-5 discectomy in 2006, and
L4-5 decompression and fusion in 2013), right hip bursitis,
and obesity (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(b) except that she can sit for 45 minutes at a
time, stand for 30 minutes at a time, and walk no more than 1
block at a time. In addition, she can occasionally climb
ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl,
she can never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds, she can
never operate foot controls with her right lower extremity,
and she must avoid concentrated exposure to wetness,
vibrations, and hazards, such as slippery, wet, moving, or
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 CFR 404.1565).
7. The claimant was born on June 21, 1973 and was 39 years
old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on
the alleged disability onset date. Her age category has not
changed as of the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1563).
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564).
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the
determination of disability because using the
Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding
that the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or
not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 92-41
and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 404.1569 and
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from April 4, 2013, through the
date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g)).
(Tr. 21- 29)
upon these findings, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was
not entitled to disability insurance benefits. The ALJ's
decision became the final agency decision when the Appeals
Council denied review. This appeal followed.
filed her opening brief on July 3, 2017. On July 27, 2017,
the defendant filed a memorandum in support of the
Commissioner's decision, and on August 28, 2017,
Plaintiff filed her reply. Upon full review of the record in
this cause, this court is of the view that the ALJ's
decision should be remanded.
step test has been established to determine whether a
claimant is disabled. See Singleton v. Bowen, 841
F.2d 710, 711 (7th Cir. 1988); Bowen v. Yuckert, 107
S.Ct. 2287, 2290-91 (1987). The United States Court of
Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has summarized that test as
The following steps are addressed in order: (1) Is the
claimant presently unemployed? (2) Is the claimant's
impairment "severe"? (3) Does the impairment meet
or exceed one of a list of specific impairments? (4) Is the
claimant unable to perform his or her former occupation? (5)
Is the claimant unable to perform any other work within the
economy? An affirmative answer leads either to the next step
or, on steps 3 and 5, to a finding that the claimant is
disabled. A negative answer at ...