United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
SHELLEY L. GIBBENY, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE
Shelley L. Gibbeny seeks review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(Commissioner) denying her application for disability and
disability insurance benefits. The Plaintiff argues that the
Commissioner wrongfully denied her Social Security Disability
benefits and erred by failing to give controlling weight to
the Plaintiff's treating psychologist's opinion and
failing to find her kleptomania disabling.
24, 2013, the Plaintiff filed her third Title II application
for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits,
alleging disability beginning on March 1, 2009. (R. 36.) Her
claim was denied initially on August 29, 2013, and upon
reconsideration on November 20, 2013. (Id.) On May
12, 2015, the Plaintiff appeared via phone with counsel and
testified at a hearing before an administrative law judge.
(Id.) On August 24, 2015, the ALJ denied the
Plaintiff's application. (R. 47.) Sharon D. Ringenberg,
an impartial vocational expert, also appeared at the hearing.
(R. 36.) On March 16, 2017, the ALJ's decision became the
final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council
denied the Plaintiff's request for review of the
ALJ's decision. (R. 1-4.) On May 15, 2017, the Plaintiff
filed this claim in federal court against the Acting
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration.
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). To be found
disabled, a claimant must demonstrate that her physical or
mental limitations prevent her from doing not only her
previous work, but also any other kind of gainful employment
that exists in the national economy, considering her age,
education, and work experience. § 423(d)(2)(A).
conducts a five-step inquiry in deciding whether to grant or
deny benefits. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. The first step is
to determine whether the claimant no longer engages in
substantial gainful activity (SGA). Id. In the case
at hand, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff has not engaged in
SGA since her alleged onset date, March 1, 2009, and that the
Plaintiff's date last insured was September 30, 2012. (R.
two, the ALJ determines whether the claimant has a severe
impairment limiting her ability to do basic work activities
under § 404.1520(c). In this case, the ALJ determined
that the Plaintiff had multiple severe impairments, including
affective disorder, anxiety disorder, and personality
disorder in addition to a combination of physical
impairments, none of which the ALJ found to be individually
severe, but which the ALJ found were severe in combination.
(R.38.) The ALJ found that these impairments caused
more than minimal limitations in the Plaintiff's ability
to perform the basic mental and physical demands of work.
three requires the ALJ to “consider the medical
severity of [the] impairment” to determine whether the
impairment “meets or equals one of the [the] listings
in appendix 1 . . . .” § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). If a
claimant's impairment(s), considered singly or in
combination with other impairments, rise to this level, there
is a presumption of disability “without considering
[the claimant's] age, education, and work
experience.” § 404.1520(d). But, if the
impairment(s), either singly or in combination, fall short,
the ALJ must proceed to step four and examine the
claimant's “residual functional capacity”
(RFC)-the types of things she can still do physically,
despite her limitations-to determine whether she can perform
“past relevant work, ” § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv),
or whether the claimant can “make an adjustment to
other work” given the claimant's “age,
education, and work experience.” §
determined that the Plaintiff's impairments did not meet
or equal any of the listings in Appendix 1 and that she had
the RFC to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R.
404.1567(b) except that:
She is limited to no work with the general public and only
brief and superficial interactions with co-workers and
supervisors in a relatively unchanging work setting and
process with no requirement for fast paced work.
analyzing the record, the ALJ concluded that the Plaintiff
was not disabled as of her alleged onset date. The ALJ
evaluated the objective medical evidence and the
Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found that the
Plaintiff's medically determinable impairments
“could reasonably be expected to cause some of the
alleged symptoms.” (R. 45.) But, the ALJ found that the
Plaintiff's testimony and prior statements regarding the
intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of these
symptoms “were not entirely credible.”
the Plaintiff's mental impairments, the ALJ considered
the opinions of various medical professionals. State Agency
psychological consultants found that the Plaintiff's
affective disorder, anxiety disorder, and personality
disorder were severe, but found only a mild deficit in
adaptive functioning, which the ALJ acknowledged was
contradictory. (R. 41.) The State Agency consultants did not
discuss the Plaintiff's diagnoses of kleptomania and
substance abuse. The ALJ also considered treatment records
from Dr. James Cates, who initially treated the claimant in
the 1990s but did not resume treatment until September 2009.
(Id.) The ALJ found that the evidence prior to the
Plaintiff's date last insured ...