United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
DANIEL G. FRAZIER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ENTRY REVIEWING THE COMMISSIONER'S
Jane Magntts-Stinson, Chief Judge United States District
Daniel Frazier applied for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and/or supplemental security
income (“SSI”) from the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) on July 8, 2013,
alleging an onset date of June 16, 2008. [Filing No. 18-2 at
38.] His applications were initially denied on November 6,
2013, [Filing No. 18-5 at 2; Filing No. 18-5 at 6], and upon
reconsideration on March 13, 2014, [Filing No. 18-5 at 14;
Filing No. 18-5 at 18]. Administrative Law Judge Ronald T.
Jordan (the “ALJ”) held a hearing on November 12,
2015, [Filing No. 18-3 at 23-44], and held a supplemental
hearing on April 14, 2016, [Filing No. 19-2 at 4-26]. The ALJ
issued a decision on June 17, 2016, concluding that Mr.
Frazier was not entitled to receive DIB or SSI. [Filing No.
18-2 at 35.] The Appeals Council denied review on June 13,
2017. [Filing No. 18-2 at 2.] On August 4, 2017, Mr. Frazier
timely filed this civil action, asking the Court to review
the denial of benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
and 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c). [Filing No. 1.]
“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
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 (7th Cir. 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).
must apply the five-step inquiry set forth in 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v), evaluating the following, in
(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 [Deputy Commissioner]; (4) whether
the claimant can perform [his] past work; and (5) whether the
claimant is capable of performing work in the national
Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir. 2000)
(citations omitted) (alterations in original).“If a
claimant satisfies steps one, two, and three, [he] will
automatically be found disabled. If a claimant satisfies
steps one and two, but not three, then [he] must satisfy step
four. Once step four is satisfied, the burden shifts to the
SSA to establish that the claimant is capable of performing
work in the national economy.” Knight v.
Chater, 55 F.3d 309, 313 (7th Cir. 1995).
Step Three, but before Step Four, the ALJ must determine a
claimant's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) by evaluating “all
limitations that arise from medically determinable
impairments, even those that are not severe.”
Villano v. Astrue, 556 F.3d 558, 563 (7th Cir.
2009). In doing so, the ALJ “may not dismiss a line of
evidence contrary to the ruling.” Id. The ALJ
uses the RFC at Step Four to determine whether the claimant
can perform his own past relevant work and if not, at Step
Five to determine whether the claimant can perform other
work. See20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(iv), (v). The
burden of proof is on the claimant for Steps One through
Four; only at Step Five does the burden shift to the Deputy
Commissioner. See Clifford, 227 F.3d at
ALJ committed no legal error and substantial evidence exists
to support the ALJ's decision, the Court must affirm the
denial of benefits. Barnett, 381 F.3d at 668. When
an ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial
evidence, a remand for further proceedings is typically the
appropriate remedy. Briscoe ex rel. Taylor v.
Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 355 (7th Cir. 2005). An award of
benefits “is appropriate where all factual issues have
been resolved and the record can yield but one supportable
conclusion.” Id. (citation omitted).
Frazier was 36 years of age at the time he applied for DIB
and/or SSI. [Filing No. 18-7 at 2.] He has a limited
education and previously worked as a forklift operator and a
warehouse worker. [Filing No. 18-2 at
followed the five-step sequential evaluation set forth by the
Social Security Administration in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4) and ultimately concluded that Mr. Frazier was
not disabled. [Filing No. 18-2 at 49-50.] The ALJ
found as follows:
• At Step One, Mr. Frazier had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since June 16, 2008, the alleged
onset date. [Filing No. 18-2 at 40.]
• At Step Two, Mr. Frazier had the following severe
impairments: cervical spine degenerative disc disease, left
shoulder impingement syndrome (status-post arthroscopic
surgery), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease “with
continued smoking, ” personality disorder, anxiety, and
depression. [Filing No. 18-2 at 41.]
• At Step Three, Mr. Frazier did not have an impairment
or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled
the severity of one of the listed ...