United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
JA-ANN M. COLLINS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
William C. Lee, Judge
matter is before the court for judicial review of a final
decision of the defendant Commissioner of Social Security
Administration denying Plaintiff's application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) as provided for in the
Social Security Act. Section 205(g) of the Act provides,
inter alia, "[a]s part of his answer, the [Commissioner]
shall file a certified copy of the transcript of the record
including the evidence upon which the findings and decision
complained of are based. The court shall have the power to
enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a
judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of
the [Commissioner], with or without remanding the case for a
rehearing." It also provides, "[t]he findings of
the [Commissioner] as to any fact, if supported by
substantial evidence, shall be conclusive. . . ." 42
provides that an applicant for DIB must establish an
"inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity
by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental
impairment which can be expected to last for a continuous
period of no less than 12 months. . . ." 42 U.S.C.
§416(i)(1); 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(1)(A). A physical or
mental impairment is "an impairment that results from
anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities
which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory diagnostic techniques." 42 U.S.C.
§423(d)(3). It is not enough for a plaintiff to
establish that an impairment exists. It must be shown that
the impairment is severe enough to preclude the plaintiff
from engaging in substantial gainful activity. Gotshaw v.
Ribicoff, 307 F.2d 840 (7th Cir. 1962), cert. denied,
372 U.S. 945 (1963); Garcia v. Califano, 463 F.Supp.
1098 (N.D.Ill. 1979). It is well established that the burden
of proving entitlement to disability insurance benefits is on
the plaintiff. See Jeralds v. Richardson, 445 F.2d
36 (7th Cir. 1971); Kutchman v. Cohen, 425 F.2d 20
(7th Cir. 1970).
the foregoing framework, "[t]he question before [this
court] is whether the record as a whole contains substantial
evidence to support the [Commissioner's] findings."
Garfield v. Schweiker, 732 F.2d 605, 607 (7th Cir.
1984) citing Whitney v. Schweiker, 695 F.2d 784, 786
(7th Cir. 1982); 42 U.S.C. §405(g). "Substantial
evidence is defined as 'more than a mere scintilla. It
means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'"
Rhoderick v. Heckler, 737 F.2d 714, 715 (7th Cir.
1984) quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389,
401, 91 S.Ct. 1410, 1427 (1971); see Allen v.
Weinberger, 552 F.2d 781, 784 (7th Cir. 1977). "If
the record contains such support [it] must [be] affirmed, 42
U.S.C. §405(g), unless there has been an error of
law." Garfield, supra at 607; see
also Schnoll v. Harris, 636 F.2d 1146, 1150 (7th Cir.
present matter, after consideration of the entire record, the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) made the
1. The claimant last met the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act on December 31, 2013 (Ex. 5D).
2. The claimant did not engage in substantial gainful
activity during the period from her amended alleged onset
date of April 5, 2013 through her date last insured of
December 31, 2013 (Ex 3D, 4D, 5D, 7D)(20 CFR 404.1571 et
3. Through the date last insured, the claimant had the
following severe impairments: attention deficit
disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,
generalized anxiety disorder; affective disorders (variously
characterized as bipolar disorder and major depressive
disorder), borderline personality disorder, PTSD, and
possible psychogenic dystonia (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
4. Through the date last insured, the claimant did not have
an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR
404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that, through the date last insured, the
claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform a
full range of work at all exertional levels but with the
following nonexertional limitations: she was unable to engage
in complex or detailed tasks but she was able to perform
simple, routine, repetitive tasks.
6. Through the date last insured, the claimant was unable to
perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565).
7. The claimant was born on April 19, 1973 and was 40 years
old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on
the date last insured (20 CFR 404.1563).
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564).
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the
determination of disability because using the
Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding
that the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or
not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41
and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. Through the date last insured, considering the
claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual
functional capacity, there were jobs that existed in
significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant
could have performed (20 CFR 404.1569 and 404.1569(a)).
11. The claimant was not under a disability, as defined in
the Social Security Act, at any time from April 5, 2013, the
amended alleged onset date, through December 31, 2013, the
date last insured (20 CFR 404.1520(g)).
upon these findings, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was
not entitled to disability insurance benefits. The ALJ's
decision became the final agency decision when the Appeals
Council denied review. This appeal followed.
filed her opening brief on January 25, 2018. On February 26,
2018, the defendant filed a memorandum in support of the
Commissioner's decision, to which Plaintiff replied on
March 22, 2018. Upon full review of the record in this cause,
this court is of the view that the ALJ's decision should
step test has been established to determine whether a
claimant is disabled. See Singleton v. Bowen, 841
F.2d 710, 711 (7th Cir. 1988); Bowen v. Yuckert, 107
S.Ct. 2287, 2290-91 (1987). The United States Court of
Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has summarized that test as
The following steps are addressed in order: (1) Is the
claimant presently unemployed? (2) Is the claimant's
impairment "severe"? (3) Does the impairment meet
or exceed one of a list of specific impairments? (4) Is the
claimant unable to perform his or her former occupation? (5)
Is the claimant unable to perform any other work within the
economy? An affirmative answer leads either to the next step
or, on steps 3 and 5, to a finding that the claimant is
disabled. A negative answer at any point, other than step 3,
stops the inquiry and leads to a determination that the
claimant is not disabled.
Nelson v. Bowen, 855 F.2d 503, 504 n.2 (7th Cir.
1988); Zalewski v. Heckler, 760 F.2d 160, 162 n.2
(7th Cir. 1985); accord Halvorsen v. Heckler, 743
F.2d 1221 (7th Cir. 1984). From the nature of the ALJ's
decision to deny benefits, it is clear that Step 5 was the
filed an application for Disability Insurance benefits in
August 2014. (Tr. 148-149). SSA denied the application in
January 2015 finding that the evidence was insufficient to
establish a disabling condition prior to December 31, 2013,
the date Plaintiff was last insured for disability benefits.
(Tr. 89-92, 165). Plaintiff timely filed a request for
reconsideration which was denied in March 2015. (Tr. 95-98).
In response to a timely-filed request, ALJ Steven McNeary
held a hearing on May 25, 2016, and Plaintiff appeared and
testified at the hearing along with her spouse, Heath
Collins, and a vocational expert witness, Amy Kutschbach.
(Tr. 37). Attorney Ann Trzynka appeared at the hearing and
represented Plaintiff. (Tr. 37-71).
August 3, 2016, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision
finding that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the
Social Security Act. (Tr. 15-36). Plaintiff asked SSA's
Appeals Council to review the unfavorable decision. (Tr. 14).
On June 28, 2017, the Appeals Council denied review. (Tr.
1-5). Thereafter, Plaintiff timely filed her complaint in
this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
was born on April 19, 1973, and was considered a
“younger person” as of her alleged onset date.
(Tr. 72). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c). Plaintiff has at
least a high school education and a history of performing
semi-skilled work at the sedentary to medium exertional
levels. (Tr. 67, 230). Plaintiff last worked in August 2008.
(Tr. 40, 162). She was employed at that time as a detention