United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
JAMES H. GULICK, 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) and Supplemental Security
Income (SSI) 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
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
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 June 30, 2018.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since October 24, 2013, the alleged onset date (20
CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
Degenerative disc disease, bilateral shoulder impairment,
ischemic heart disease, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and
affective disorder (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 20
CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except he cannot perform
bilateral overhead reaching or lifting; he can occasionally
balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ramps and
stairs, but he cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds;
he must avoid exposure to unprotected heights; and he must
avoid concentrated exposure to dangerous or hazardous
machinery, which is machinery with exposed moving parts
that are used to cut or grind and that fail 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. The claimant could work in the same building as these
dangerous and hazardous machinery, but not around such
machinery. He 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; he
cannot make judgments or decisions for more complex or
detailed types of tasks, such as analyzing compiled data,
directing or planning other's activities, supervising
employees, or performing tasks that vary from day to day
and require new learning on an unpredictable basis; he 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.
Additionally, he should not work in an environment that is
stringently production or quota-based, and thus may not
perform fast-paced assembly line work; he can meet
production requirements that allow him to sustain a
flexible and goal-oriented pace; he can work jobs that
entail only occasional and superficial contact with the
general public and would not be able to perform a job that
entailed work-related interaction and conversations with
the general public; he could interact and converse with
supervisors long enough to receive work instructions,
however, he can only work a job that otherwise involves
occasional and superficial interaction with his
supervisors; and his work station must be indoors and must
avoid inordinate amounts of heat or humidity in that his
work environment must be similar to those found in a
typical business office.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on January 18, 1969 and was 44
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 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
82-41 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,
404.1569(a), 416969 and 416.969(a)).
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as
defined in the Social Security Act, from October 24, 2013,
through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and
(Tr. 19- 29).
upon these findings, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was
not entitled to disability benefits. The ALJ's decision
became the final agency decision when the Appeals Council
denied review. This appeal followed.
filed his opening brief on September 12, 2017. On October 18,
2017, the defendant filed a memorandum in support of the
Commissioner's decision. Plaintiff has declined to file a
reply. Upon full review of the record in this cause, this
court is of the view that the ALJ's decision must be
five-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 follows:
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 any point, other than step 3,
stops the inquiry and leads to a determination that the
claimant is not disabled.
Nelson v. Bowen, 855 F.2d 503, 504 n.2 (7th Cir.
1988); Zalewski v. Heckler, 760 F.2d 160, 162 n.2
(7th Cir. 1985); accord Halvorsen v. Heckler, 743
F.2d 1221 (7th Cir. 1984). From the nature of the ALJ's
decision to deny benefits, it is clear that step five was the
support of remand or reversal, Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ
should have given more weight to his work history, and that
the ALJ should have given more weight to medical opinion
evidence from Dan Boen, Ph.D.
support of his first argument, Plaintiff claims that his long
and continuous work history entitles him to
“substantial credibility”. “An ALJ is in
the best position to determine a witness's truthfulness
and forthrightness; thus, this court will not overturn an
ALJ's credibility determination unless it is
‘patently wrong.'” Skarbek v.
Barnhart, 390 F.3d 500, 505 (7th Cir. 2004). In the
present case, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's medically
determinable impairments could reasonably be expected the
cause some of the alleged symptoms; however, his statements
concerning the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects
of these symptoms were not entirely ...