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West v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

November 10, 2017

STEPHANIE D. WEST, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          William C. Lee, Judge

         This 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 Child Disability Benefits (CDB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as provided for in the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d); 42 U.S.C. §1382c(a)(3). 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).

         The law 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 Cir. 1970).

         Given 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. 1980).

         In the present matter, after consideration of the entire record, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) made the following findings:

1. Born on November 2, 1991, the claimant had not attained age 22 as of January 17, 2006, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.102, 416.120(c)(4) and 404.350(a)(5). She was unmarried until February 14, 2105.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 17, 2006, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: chronic back pain due to lumbar facet arthropathy sacroiliitis (Exhibits 2F; 11F; 12F); history of migraine headaches (Exhibits 1F; 2F; 5F; 8F; 13F; 14F; 15F); history of chronic abdominal pain due to irritable bowel syndrome (Exhibits 2F; 5F; 7F; 13F); asthma (Exhibits 14F; 15F); obesity (Exhibit 2F); bipolar disorder (Exhibits 2F; 4F); anxiety (Exhibits 2F; 4F; 13F); attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)(Exhibit 2F); and borderline intellectual functioning (Exhibit 4F)(20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(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, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
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 2 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) but with further restrictions as follows: The claimant needs the option to sit and stand, which allows for alternating between sitting and standing up to every 30 minutes, if needed, while the positional change not render the individual off task. Climbing of ramps/stairs, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling, are limited to an occasional basis, but the claimant can never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. The claimant also needs to avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold, heat, humidity, loud noise, bright flashing lights, pulmonary irritants (i.e. fumes, odors, dust, gases, poorly ventilated areas, and chemicals), and hazards (i.e. operational control of dangerous moving machinery, unprotected heights, and slippery uneven moving surfaces). Mentally, the claimant cannot understand, remember, or carry out detailed or complex job instructions, but remains capable of performing simple, repetitive tasks on a sustained basis (meaning eight hours a day/five days a week, or an equivalent work schedule). Finally, the claimant cannot engage in fast-paced work or work requiring a regimented pace of production, but rather is limited to work at a flexible pace (i.e. where there is allowance of some independence in determining either the timing of different work activities, or pace of work).
6. The claimant has no past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on November 2, 1991, and was 14 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).
8. The claimant has a limited education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).
9. Transferability of job skills is not an issue because the claimant does not have past relevant work (20 CFR ...

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