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Ferguson v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

May 3, 2018

MICHAEL CHARLES FERGUSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          William C. Lee, Judge

         This 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) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as provided for in the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. §416(I). Section 405(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 U.S.C. §405(g).

         The law provides that an applicant for disability insurance benefits 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 not 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).

         Given 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. 1980).

         In the present matter, after consideration of the entire record, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) made the following findings:

1. The most recent favorable medical decision finding that the claimant was disabled is the determination dated November 15, 2010. This is known as the “comparison point decision” or CPD.
2. At the time of the CPD, the claimant had the following medically determinable impairments: congenital heart anomaly (status post Tetralogy of Fallot repair and Blalock-Taussig shunts at age 3 and pulmonary artery stent placement in 2007). These impairments were found to medically equal section 4.06C (Ex. 1A, 8F) of 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d)).
3. Since the established onset date, the claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity (Ex. 2D, 3D, 6D, 7D)(20 CFR 404.1594(f)(1)).
4. Since April 11, 2014, the claimant has not had an impairment or combination of impairments which has met or medically equaled the severity of an impairment listed in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1525 and 404.1526).
5. Medical improvement occurred as of April 11, 2014 (20 CFR 404.1594(b)(1)).
6. The medical improvement is related to the ability to work because, as of April 11, 2014, the claimant's CPD impairments no longer met or medically equaled the same listing that was equaled at the time of the CPD (20 CFR 404.1594(c)(3)(i)).
7. Since April 11, 2014, the claimant has had the following severe impairments: congenital heart disease (status post Tetralogy of Fallot repair at age 3, pulmonary artery stenting in 2007, and pulmonary valve replacement in 2011)(20 CFR 404.1594(f)(6)).
8. Based on the impairments present as of April 11, 2014, the claimant has had the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) (lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently and, in an eight-hour period, sitting or standing/walking for a total of 6 hours each) except that he is not able to climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds at all and he can only occasionally climb ramps and stairs, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. He must also avoid concentrated exposure to extreme heat, extreme cold, humidity, fumes, ...

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