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Miller v. Berryhill

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

November 16, 2017

LARRY A. MILLER, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM C. LEE, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         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 Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) as provided for in the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. §416(I). Section 405(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 not 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. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2017.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 24, 2013, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: epilepsy; diabetes mellitus with peripheral neuropathy; obesity; coronary artery disease; spine disorder; moderately severe obstructive sleep apnea; and adjustment disorder with depressed mood/major depressive disorder (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 sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except: occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; avoid exposure to unprotected heights; avoid concentrated exposure to dangerous or hazardous machinery meaning machinery that has exposed moving parts that are used to cut or grind and that fails to stop when human contact is lost, or machinery that has an open flame or hot surfaces that would burn someone if they fell onto them (individual could work where these types of hazards and machinery are used, but should not operate them or pass so closely to them that they could fall into them); should not drive motor vehicles or have his work station in an area where motor vehicles are used (e.g. shipping warehouse where motor vehicles come and go and the worker loads or unloads inventory); avoid concentrated exposure to vibrations, meaning he cannot work a job that requires working on flooring that is vibrating or requires working with or in close proximity to tools that are vibrating such as an electrical drill or moving machinery that cause concentrated vibration; and is limited to frequent bilateral fingering and handling. The claimant can understand, remember, and carry out rote or routine instructions or tasks that require the exercise of little independent judgment or decision-making and can be learned from a short demonstration up to 30 days; cannot make judgments or decisions for more complex or detailed types of tasks, such as analyzing compiled data, directing or planning others' activities, supervising employees, or performing tasks that vary from day to day and require new learning on an unpredictable basis; must work in a stable setting where there is little change in terms of tools used, the processes employed, or the setting itself, and change, where necessary, is introduced gradually; and while all competitive employment has production requirements, should not work in an environment that is stringently production or quota-based, and thus may not perform fast-paced assembly line work, but can meet production requirements that allow him to sustain a flexible and goal oriented pace.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565).
7. The claimant was born on December 30, 1967 and was 45 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 45-49, on the alleged disability onset date (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 ...

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