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Miller v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, LaFayette Division

March 26, 2018

KEVIN D. MILLER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Kevin D. Miller seeks judicial review of the Social Security Commissioner's denial of disability benefits, and asks this Court to remand the case. For the reasons below, the Court remands the case.

         A. Overview of the Case

         Plaintiff alleges he became disabled on November 15, 2011, following a series of health issues, an injury at work, and injuries due to overuse in his right knee after undergoing surgery on his left knee. (R. at 43-44.) Plaintiff had previously worked as a carpenter. (R. at 515.) The Administrative Law Judge found that Plaintiff suffered from bilateral knee disorder, cervical degenerative disc disease, carpal tunnel syndrome, schizoaffective disorder, affective disorder, and substance abuse disorder. (R. at 502.) Nonetheless, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff can still do various kinds of sedentary work, with limitations, so long as he never interacts with the public, and only interacts with coworkers and supervisors occasionally. (R. at 506.) T. (R. at 516.) This denial became final when the Social Security Appeals Council declined to assume jurisdiction. (R.at 586.)

         B. Standard of Review

         This Court has authority to review the Commissioner's decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Court will ensure that the ALJ built an “accurate and logical bridge” from evidence to conclusion. Thomas v. Colvin, 745 F.3d 802, 806 (7th Cir. 2014). The Court will uphold decisions that apply the correct legal standard and are supported by substantial evidence. Briscoe ex rel. Taylor v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 351 (7th Cir. 2005).

         C. Disability Standard

         The Commissioner follows a five-step inquiry in evaluating claims for disability benefits under the Social Security Act:

(1) whether the claimant is currently employed; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment; (3) whether the claimant's impairment is one that the Commissioner considers conclusively disabling; (4) if the claimant does not have a conclusively disabling impairment, whether he can perform his past relevant work; and (5) whether the claimant is capable of performing any work in the national economy.

Kastner v. Astrue, 697 F.3d 642, 646 (7th Cir. 2012).

         The claimant bears the burden of proof at every step except step five. Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir. 2000).

         D. Analysis

         Plaintiff submits that the ALJ: (1) did not adequately support the mental functioning capacity determination; (2) erred in considering Plaintiff's medical compliance; (3) erred in evaluating Plaintiff's symptoms and assigning weight to the opinion evidence; (4) erred when evaluating new medical evidence; (5) and failed to follow SSR 96-8p. Finally, Plaintiff argues that in failing to discuss several of Plaintiff's arguments, the Commissioner agreed with Plaintiff that remand was necessary.

         (1) The ALJ's mental functioning assessment was supported by relevant evidence a ...


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