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Rodgers v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 27, 2018

NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.


          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge United States District Court Southern District of Indiana

         Plaintiff Velvet A. Rodgers requests judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Nancy Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”), denying Rodgers' application for Supplemental Security Income Benefits (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (“the Act”). The Court, having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, now rules as follows.


         Rodgers filed for SSI on October 2, 2013, alleging she became disabled on August 17, 2012. Rodgers' application was denied initially on February 10, 2014, and again upon reconsideration on March 31, 2014. Following the denial upon reconsideration, Rodgers requested and received a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). A hearing was held before ALJ Dennis Lyndell Pickett on July 23, 2015, during which Rodgers was represented by counsel. The ALJ issued his decision on September 11, 2015, denying Rodgers' claim. Rodgers requested review by the Appeals Council, and the Appeals Council denied the request for review. Rodgers then filed this timely appeal.


         Disability is defined as “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death, or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). In order to be found disabled, a claimant must demonstrate that her physical or mental limitations prevent her from doing not only her previous work, but any other kind of gainful employment which exists in the national economy, considering her age, education, and work experience. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).

         In determining whether a claimant is disabled, the Commissioner employs a five-step sequential analysis. At step one, if the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, she is not disabled, despite her medical condition and other factors. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i). At step two, if the claimant does not have a “severe” impairment (i.e., one that significantly limits her ability to perform basic work activities), she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii). At step three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments meets or medically equals any impairment that appears in the Listing of Impairments, 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, App. 1, and whether the impairment meets the twelvemonth duration requirement; if so, the claimant is deemed disabled, 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iii). At step four, if the claimant is able to perform her past relevant work, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iv). At step five, if the claimant can perform any other work in the national economy, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(v).

         In reviewing the ALJ's decision, the ALJ's findings of fact are conclusive and must be upheld by this court “so long as substantial evidence supports them and no error of law occurred.” Dixon v. Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1176 (7th Cir. 2001). “Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, ” id., and this Court may not reweigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ, Overman v. Astrue, 546 F.3d 456, 462 (7th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). The ALJ is required to articulate only a minimal, but legitimate, justification for his acceptance or rejection of specific evidence of disability. Scheck v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 697, 700 (7th Cir. 2004). In order to be affirmed, the ALJ must articulate his analysis of the evidence in his decision; while he “is not required to address every piece of evidence or testimony, ” he must “provide some glimpse into [his] reasoning . . . [and] build an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to [his] conclusion.” Dixon, 270 F.3d at 1176 (citations omitted).


         ALJ Pickett determined at step one that Rodgers had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 2, 2013, the application date. Record at 13. At steps two and three, the ALJ concluded that Rodgers had the severe impairments of “fibromyalgia, obesity, back pain, and osteoarthritis, ” id., as well as the non-severe impairments of carpal tunnel syndrome and depression, id. at 14. At step four, the ALJ determined that Rodgers had the following residual functional capacity (“RFC”):

[T]he the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light [sic] as defined in 20 []CFR 416.967(b) except occasional climbing ladders, ropes, scaffolds, ramps, stairs; occasional balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling.

R. at 16. The ALJ determined that Rodgers was able to perform the past relevant work of cashier, and that “there are other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that [she] also can perform.” R. at 19. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Rodgers “has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since October 2, 2013, the date the application was filed.” R. at 20.


         The ALJ's decision, in combination with Rodgers' brief (Dkt. No. 10), aptly sets forth the medical evidence of record, which need not be recited here. Specific facts are ...

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