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Brogan v. Berryhill

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

May 2, 2018

FRANK D. BROGAN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of Operations, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Frank Brogan (“Brogan”) requests judicial review of the final decision of the Deputy Commissioner of Operations for the Social Security Administration, denying his applications for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under the Social Security Act (the “Act”). For the following reasons, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Deputy Commissioner.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         On August 29, 2013, Brogan filed applications for DIB and SSI, alleging a disability onset date of June 3, 2013. (Filing No. 13-2 at 16.) His applications were initially denied on October 21, 2013, (Filing No. 13-4 at 3), and upon reconsideration on January 28, 2014, (Filing No. 13-4 at 17). Administrative Law Judge Blanca de la Torre (the “ALJ”) held a hearing on July 8, 2015, at which Brogan, represented by counsel, and a vocational expert (“VE”), Dr. George Parsons, appeared and testified. (Filing No. 13-2 at 38-72.) The ALJ issued a decision on September 23, 2015, concluding that Brogan was not entitled to receive DIB or SSI. (Filing No. 13-2 at 13.) The Appeals Council denied review on February 14, 2017. (Filing No. 13-2 at 2.) On March 20, 2017, Brogan timely filed this civil action, asking the court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c) to review the final decision of the Deputy Commissioner denying Brogan benefits. (Filing No. 1.) For the following reasons, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Deputy Commissioner.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “The 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 217.

         THESE ARE THE PARAGRAPHS YOU TYPICALLY USE: Under the Act, a claimant may be entitled to DIB or SSI only after he establishes that he is disabled. 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 his physical or mental limitations prevent him from doing not only his previous work but any other kind of gainful employment which exists in the national economy, considering his age, education, and work experience. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).

         The Commissioner employs a five-step sequential analysis to determine whether a claimant is disabled. At step one, if the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, he is not disabled despite his 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 that meets the durational requirement, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii). A severe impairment is one that “significantly limits [a claimant's] physical or mental ability to do basic work activities.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). 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. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, and whether the impairment meets the twelve month duration requirement; if so, the claimant is deemed disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iii).

         If the claimant's impairments do not meet or medically equal one of the impairments on the Listing of Impairments, then his residual functional capacity will be assessed and used for the fourth and fifth steps. Residual functional capacity (“RFC”) is the “maximum that a claimant can still do despite his mental and physical limitations.” Craft v. Astrue, 539 F.3d 668, 675-76 (7th Cir. 2008) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1); SSR 96-8p). At step four, if the claimant is able to perform his past relevant work, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iv). At the fifth and final step, it must be determined whether the claimant can perform any other work in the relevant economy, given his RFC and considering his age, education, and past work experience. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v). The claimant is not disabled if he can perform any other work in the relevant economy.

         The combined effect of all the impairments of the claimant shall be considered throughout the disability determination process. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(B). The burden of proof is on the claimant for the first four steps; it then shifts to the Commissioner for the fifth step. Young v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 957 F.2d 386, 389 (7th Cir. 1992).

         When an 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 (7thCir. 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).

         The ALJ must apply the five-step inquiry set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v), evaluating the following, in sequence:

(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 [his] past work; and (5) whether the ...

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