United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
JOHN T. CLORE, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF Social Security, sued as Nancy A. Berryhill,  Acting Commissioner of SSA, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
Collins, United States Magistrate Judge.
John T. Clore appeals to the district court from a final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying his application under
the Social Security Act (the “Act”) for
disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”). (DE 1). For the following reasons, the
Commissioner's decision will be REVERSED, and the case
will be REMANDED to the Commissioner for further proceedings
in accordance with this Opinion and Order.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
applied for DIB in April 2014, alleging disability as of
November 5, 2013. (DE 9 Administrative Record
(“AR”) 205-06). The Commissioner denied
Clore's application initially and upon reconsideration.
(AR 136-39, 146-52). After a timely request, a hearing was
held on March 9, 2016, before Administrative Law Judge
Stephanie Katich (the “ALJ”), at which Clore, who
was represented by counsel; Clore's mother; and a
vocational expert, Sharon Ringenberg (the “VE”),
testified. (AR 56-109). On June 6, 2016, the ALJ rendered an
unfavorable decision to Clore, concluding that he was not
disabled because he could perform a significant number of
unskilled, sedentary jobs in the economy despite the
limitations caused by his impairments. (AR 19-45). Clore
requested review of the decision by the Appeals Council and
submitted additional evidence with that request, but the
Appeals Council denied review (AR 1-6), at which point the
ALJ's decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981.
filed a complaint with this Court on January 23, 2017,
seeking relief from the Commissioner's decision. (DE 1).
Clore advances four arguments in this appeal: (1) that the
ALJ failed to properly evaluate the medical source opinions
and adopted a flawed residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) finding; (2) the RFC assigned by the ALJ
does not account for all of Clore's mental limitations,
including his moderate deficits in maintaining concentration,
persistence, or pace; (3) that the ALJ's step-five
finding is not supported by substantial evidence because the
VE failed to provide an adequate foundation for the number of
jobs cited; and (4) that the Appeals Council erred in its
consideration of the additional evidence that Clore
submitted. (DE 17 at 10-24).
time of the ALJ's decision, Clore was 30 years old (AR
45, 205) and had obtained a high school degree and an
associate's degree, had gone to diesel mechanic school,
and had received on-the-job training from Navistar Truck and
Engine (AR 73, 244). Clore had worked as a part picker, field
service engineer, gas station attendant, and mechanic. (AR
245, 339). In his DIB application, Clore alleged disability
due to post traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”),
deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, hypertension,
depression, lower back problems, left shoulder problems,
gastrointestinal pain and nausea, and diarrhea. (AR 243).
Clore was six, feet four inches tall and weighed 403 pounds
at the time he applied for disability. (AR 243).
has been hospitalized at least four times (May 2011, December
2012, February 2013, and November 2013) due to his history of
deep vein thrombosis with recurrent pulmonary emboli. (AR
381-82, 501-03, 708-19, 1053). In addition to his primary
care physician, Clore has consulted or been treated by
multiple specialist physicians for his various impairments,
including a hematologist, a pain management specialist, an
orthopaedist, a pulmonologist, a gastroenterologist, and a
STANDARD OF REVIEW
405(g) of the Act grants this Court “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 cause for a
rehearing.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Court's
task is limited to determining whether the ALJ's factual
findings are supported by substantial evidence, which means
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Schmidt v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 737, 744 (7th Cir.
2005) (citation omitted). The decision will be reversed only
if it is not supported by substantial evidence or if the ALJ
applied an erroneous legal standard. Clifford v.
Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 869 (7th Cir. 2000) (citation
determine if substantial evidence exists, the Court reviews
the entire administrative record but does not reweigh the
evidence, resolve conflicts, decide questions of credibility,
or substitute its judgment for the Commissioner's.
Id. Rather, if the findings of the Commissioner are
supported by substantial evidence, they are conclusive.
Jens v. Barnhart, 347 F.3d 209, 212 (7th Cir. 2003)
(citation omitted). “In other words, so long as, in
light of all the evidence, reasonable minds could differ
concerning whether [the claimant] is disabled, we must affirm
the ALJ's decision denying benefits.” Books v.
Chater, 91 F.3d 972, 978 (7th Cir. 1996).
the Act, a claimant is entitled to DIB if he establishes 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), 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. §
Commissioner evaluates disability claims pursuant to a
five-step evaluation process, requiring consideration of the
following issues, in sequence: (1) whether the claimant is
currently unemployed; (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,
see 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpt. P, App'x 1; (4)
whether the claimant is unable to perform his past work; and
(5) whether the claimant is incapable of performing work in
the national economy. See Dixon v. Massanari, 270 F.3d
1171, 1176 (7th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted); 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520. An affirmative answer leads either to the
next step or, on steps three and five, to a finding that the
claimant is disabled. Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d
881, 886 (7th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted). A negative
answer at any point other than step three stops the inquiry
and leads to a finding that the claimant is not disabled.
Id. (citation omitted). The burden of proof
lies with the claimant at every step except the fifth, where
it shifts to the Commissioner.
227 F.3d at 868 ...