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Barngrover v. Berryhill

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

May 25, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Social Security Administration, [1] Defendant.


          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge

         Plaintiff Kelly Barngrover requests judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Deputy Commissioner for Operations of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”), denying her application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). The Court rules as follows.


         Barngrover protectively filed her application on February 11, 2014, alleging onset of disability on August 21, 2010.[2] The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) initially denied Barngrover's application on May 9, 2014. After Barngrover timely requested reconsideration, SSA again denied her claim on August 18, 2014. Thereafter, Barngrover requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). An ALJ held a hearing on February 9, 2016, at which Barngrover and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. The ALJ issued her decision denying Barngrover's application on March 24, 2016. After the Appeals Council denied Barngrover's request for review on February 27, 2017, Barngrover filed this action seeking judicial review on April 26, 2017.


         The relevant evidence of record is amply set forth in the parties' briefs and need not be repeated here. Specific facts relevant to the Court's disposition of this case are discussed below.


         Disability is defined as “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable mental or physical impairment which can be expected to result in death, or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve 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 that 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(b).

         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(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. pt. 404, subpt. P, App. 1, and whether the impairment meets the twelve-month durational requirement; if so, the claimant is deemed disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(d). At step four, if the claimant is able to perform her past relevant work, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(f). 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(g).

         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). In order to be affirmed, the ALJ must articulate her analysis of the evidence in his decision; while she “is not required to address every piece of evidence or testimony presented, ” she must “provide an accurate and logical bridge between the evidence and her conclusion that a claimant is not disabled.” Kastner v. Astrue, 697 F.3d 642, 646 (7th Cir. 2012). “If a decision lacks evidentiary support or is so poorly articulated as to prevent meaningful review, a remand is required.” Id. (citation omitted).


         The ALJ found at step one that Barngrover had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the application date. At step two, the ALJ determined that Barngrover had the severe impairments of “residuals of motor vehicle accident - status post left distal humeral shaft fracture, status post comminuted closed right humeral shaft fracture, and status post grade III open right forearm fracture (20 CFR 416.920(c)).” Record at 11. The ALJ found at step three that these impairments did not, individually or in combination, meet or equal the severity of one of the listed impairments. The ALJ's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) determination was as follows:

         After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except that the claimant can frequently finger with right (dominant) hand. The claimant can frequently handle objects and reach overhead and in all directions with the right arm. The claimant can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. The claimant can have occasional exposure to extreme cold, extreme heat, wetness, humidity, ...

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