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Reid v. Berryhill

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

June 14, 2018

JEAN M. REID, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Doris L. Pryor" United States Magistrate Judge Southern District of Indiana

         Plaintiff Jean M. Reid requests judicial review of the denial by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) of her application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”). See 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d), 405(g). For the reasons set forth below, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the Commissioner's decision should be AFFFIRMED.

         I. Background

         A. Procedural History

         On March 24, 2014, Jean M. Reid (“Reid”) filed for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, alleging her disability began on January 31, 2010. The claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Reid then filed a written request for a hearing on December 17, 2014, which was granted.

         On May 4, 2016, Administrative Law Judge Dennis L. Pickett conducted the hearing, where Reid and a vocational expert testified. On July 19, 2016, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding that Reid was not disabled as defined in the Act. The Appeals Council denied Reid's request for review of this decision on June 30, 2017, making the ALJ's decision final. Reid now seeks judicial review of the Commissioner's decision. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         B. Factual Background

         Reid was 54 years old at the time of the alleged onset date of her disability in 2010. [Dkt. 11 at 5]. She completed the eleventh grade of high school and did not obtain a GED (General Equivalency Diploma). [Id.] Reid previously worked as a cashier and as a delicatessen counter worker. [Id.] For her application for social security benefits and on subsequent appeals, Reid alleged problems including heart attacks, back pain, left shoulder surgery, bad knees, sleep apnea, insomnia, and high blood pressure. [Dkt. 11 at 4].

         II. Standard of Review

         To prove disability, a claimant must show she is unable 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 twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). To meet this definition, a claimant's impairments must be of such severity that she is not able to perform the work she previously engaged in and, based on her age, education, and work experience, she cannot engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A). The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) has implemented these statutory standards by, in part, prescribing a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining disability. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. The ALJ must consider whether:

(1) the claimant is presently [un]employed; (2) the claimant has a severe impairment or combination of impairments; (3) the claimant's impairment meets or equals any impairment listed in the regulations as being so severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity; (4) the claimant's residual functional capacity leaves [her] unable to perform [her] past relevant work; and (5) the claimant is unable to perform any other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy.

Briscoe ex rel. Taylor v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 351-52 (7th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). An affirmative answer to each step leads either to the next step or, at steps three and five, to a finding that the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520; Briscoe, 425 F.3d at 352. A negative answer at any point, other than step three, terminates the inquiry and leads to a determination that the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. The claimant bears the burden of proof through step four. Briscoe, 425 F.3d at 352. If the first four steps are met, the burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five. Id. The Commissioner must then establish that the claimant-in light of her age, education, job experience and residual functional capacity to work-is capable of performing other work and that such work exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f).

         The Court reviews the Commissioner's denial of benefits to determine whether it was supported by substantial evidence or is the result of an error of law. Dixon v. Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1176 (7th Cir. 2001). Evidence is substantial when it is sufficient for a reasonable person to conclude that the evidence supports the decision. Rice v. Barnhart, 384 F.3d 363, 369 (7th Cir. 2004). The standard demands more than a scintilla of evidentiary support, but does not demand a preponderance of the evidence. Wood v. Thompson, 246 F.3d 1026, 1029 (7th Cir. 2001). Thus, the issue before the Court is not whether Reid is disabled, but, rather, whether the ALJ's findings were supported by substantial evidence. Diaz v. Chater, 55 F.3d 300, 306 (7th Cir. 1995).

         In this substantial-evidence determination, the Court must consider the entire administrative record but not “reweigh evidence, resolve conflicts, decide questions of credibility, or substitute our own judgment for that of the Commissioner.” Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 869 (7th Cir. 2000). Nevertheless, the Court must conduct a critical review of the evidence before affirming the Commissioner's decision, and the decision cannot stand if it lacks evidentiary support or an adequate discussion of the ...


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