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Marner v. Berryhill

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

January 11, 2018

AMY SUE MARNER, 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 Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) as provided for in the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. §1383. 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 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. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2015.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 30, 2012, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: lumbar degenerative changes and lumbago (Ex. B2F, B8F, B13F, B23F); bilateral osteoarthritis of the knees and hips (Ex. B2F; B3F; B7F); history of carpal tunnel syndrome, status post release surgery in January 2013 (Ex. B8F; B21F); diabetes (Ex. b3F); asthma (Ex. B8F; sleep apnea (Ex. B18F); obesity and hyperlipidemia (Ex. B3F, B7F, B11F, B21F); anxiety and depression (Ex. B1F, B4F, B8F, B10F, B19F(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 the claimant can perform only occasional climbing of ramps and stairs, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling; never climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; can do frequent handling and fingering with the bilateral hands; may need a cane for prolonged ambulation; needs to avoid concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritants (i.e. fumes, odors, dust, gases, poorly ventilated areas, and chemicals), and hazards (i.e. operational control of dangerous machinery, unprotected heights, slippery uneven moving surfaces). Mentally, the claimant cannot understand, remember, or carry out detailed or complex job instructions, but can perform simple, repetitive tasks on a sustained basis (meaning eight hours a day, 5 days a week, or an equivalent work schedule); no sudden or unpredictable workplace changes; cannot perform tasks requiring intense focused attention for prolonged periods; needs work at a flexible pace (where the employee is allowed some independence in determining either the timing of different work activities, or pace of work); only casual superficial interactions with others, including supervisors, coworkers, and the general public and only occasional interactions with the general public.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565).
7. The claimant was born on September 18, 1975 and was 36 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44, 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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