United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
SHARON K. PAIGE-ARMSTRONG, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW
J. Dinsmore United States Judge
Sharon Paige-Armstrong (“Paige-Armstrong”)
applied for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”)
from the Social Security Administration (“SSA”)
on October 21, 2013, alleging an onset date of April 8, 2013.
[Dkt. 10-5 at 2.] Her application was initially
denied on February 7, 2014, [Dkt. 10-4 at 2], and
upon reconsideration on May 20, 2014, [Dkt. 10-4 at
12]. Administrative Law Judge Judy Hilger Odell (the
“ALJ”) held a hearing on October 6, 2015.
[Dkt. 10-2 at 39-73.] The ALJ issued a decision on
January 28, 2016, concluding that Paige-Armstrong was not
entitled to receive disability insurance benefits. [Dkt.
10-2 at 15.] The Appeals Council denied review on March
9, 2017. [Dkt. 10-2 at 2.] On May 12, 2017,
Paige-Armstrong timely filed this civil action, asking the
Court to review the denial of benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) and 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c). [Dkt.
1.] For the reasons set forth below, the
Commissioner's decision is REVERSED and
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' has 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
applicant appeals an adverse benefits decision, this
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 the purpose 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), this Court must 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).
must apply the five-step inquiry set forth in 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v), evaluating the following, in
(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. See20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(iv), (v). 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).
was 50 years old at the time she applied for DIB. [Dkt.
10-5 at 2.] She has at least a high school education and
previously worked as a correctional officer. [Dkt. 10-2
followed the five-step sequential evaluation set forth by the
Social Security Administration in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4) and ultimately concluded that Paige-Armstrong
is not disabled. [Dkt. 10-2 at 29.] The ALJ found as
• At Step One, the ALJ found that Paige-Armstrong has
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 8,
2013, the alleged onset date. [Dkt. 10-2 at 20.]
• At Step Two, the ALJ found that Paige-Armstrong has
the following severe impairments: diabetes, migraine[s],
pancreatitis, “anxiety/depression/conversion disorder,
” obesity, and status post bilateral rotator cuff
surgery. [Dkt. 10-2 at 20.]
• At Step Three, the ALJ found that Paige-Armstrong does
not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
meets or medically equals the severity of one of the ...