United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
MELINDA L. MALONEY, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ENTRY REVIEWING THE COMMISSIONER'S
EVANS BARKER, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
Melinda Maloney applied for supplemental security income from
the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) on April 9, 2014, alleging a
disability onset date of August 1, 1998. [Filing No. 13-5 at
2.] Her application was initially denied on June 13, 2014,
[Filing No. 13-4 at 2], and upon reconsideration on September
12, 2014, [Filing No. 13-4 at 9]. The ALJ held a hearing on
February 16, 2016, [Filing No. 13-2 at 47-72], and issued a
decision on March 10, 2016, concluding that Ms. Maloney was
not entitled to receive supplemental security income, [Filing
No. 13-2 at 23]. The Appeals Council denied review on
February 23, 2017. [Filing No. 13-2 at 2.] On March 31, 2017,
Ms. Maloney timely filed this civil action asking the Court
to review the denial of benefits, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1383(c). [Filing No. 1.] For the reasons detailed
below, decision of the ALJ is REVERSED and the case
REMANDED for action consistent with the opinion.
Social Security Act authorizes payment of disability
insurance benefits … to individuals with
disabilities.” Barnhart v. Walton, 535 U.S.
212, 214 (2002). “The statutory definition of
‘disability' consists of two parts. First, it
requires a certain kind of inability, namely, an inability to
engage in any substantial gainful activity. Second, it
requires an impairment, namely, a physical or mental
impairment, which provides reason for the inability. The
statute adds that the impairment must be one that has lasted
or can be expected to last … not less than 12
months.” Id. at 217.
applicant appeals an adverse benefits decision the
Court's role is limited to ensuring that the ALJ applied
the correct legal standards and that substantial evidence
exists for the ALJ's decision. Barnett v.
Barnhart, 381 F.3d 664, 668 (7th Cir. 2004) (citation
omitted). For purposes of judicial review,
“[s]ubstantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. (quotation omitted). Because
the ALJ “is in the best position to determine the
credibility of witnesses, ” Craft v. Astrue,
539 F.3d 668, 678 (7th Cir. 2008), we afford the ALJ's
credibility determination “considerable deference,
” overturning it only if it is “patently
wrong.” Prochaska v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 731,
738 (7th Cir. 2006) (quotations omitted).
is required to apply the five-step inquiry set forth in 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i)-(v) in making disability
determinations, evaluating the factors in sequence:
(1) whether the claimant is currently [un]employed; (2)
whether the claimant has a severe impairment; (3) whether the
claimant's impairment meets or equals one of the
impairments listed by the [Commissioner]; (4) whether the
claimant can perform her past work; and (5) whether the
claimant is capable of performing work in the national
Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir. 2000)
(citations omitted) (alterations in original). “If a
claimant satisfies steps one, two, and three, she will
automatically be found disabled. If a claimant satisfies
steps one and two, but not three, then she must satisfy step
four. Once step four is satisfied, the burden shifts to the
SSA to establish that the claimant is capable of performing
work in the national economy.” Knight v.
Chater, 55 F.3d 309, 313 (7th Cir. 1995).
Step Three, but before Step Four, the ALJ must determine a
claimant's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) by evaluating “all
limitations that arise from medically determinable
impairments, even those that are not severe.”
Villano v. Astrue, 556 F.3d 558, 563 (7th Cir.
2009). In doing so, the ALJ “may not dismiss a line of
evidence contrary to the ruling.” Id. The ALJ
uses the RFC at Step Four to determine whether the claimant
can perform her own past relevant work and, if not, at Step
Five to determine whether the claimant can perform other
work. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e), (g). The
burden of proof is on the claimant for Steps One through
Four; only at Step Five does the burden shift to the
Commissioner. See Clifford, 227 F.3d at 868.
ALJ committed no legal error and substantial evidence exists
to support the ALJ's decision, the Court must affirm the
denial of benefits. Barnett, 381 F.3d at 668. When
an ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial
evidence, a remand for further proceedings is typically the
appropriate remedy. Briscoe ex rel. Taylor v.
Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 355 (7th Cir. 2005). An award of
benefits “is appropriate where all factual issues have
been resolved and the record can yield but one supportable
conclusion.” Id. (citation omitted).
Maloney was 43 years old at the time she applied for
supplemental security income. [Filing No. 13-5 at 2.] She had
completed high school and previously worked as a telephone
inspector. [Filing No. 13-2 at 37-38.]
followed the five-step sequential evaluation set forth by the
Social Security Administration in 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4) and ultimately concluded that Ms. Maloney is