United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM C. LEE, JUDGE
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 Social Security
Income (SSI) as provided for in the Social Security Act.
Section 205(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).
provides that an applicant for DIB 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 no 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).
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).
present matter, after consideration of the entire record, the
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") made the following
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through September 30, 2017.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et
seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. Since the alleged onset date of disability, May 1, 2015,
the claimant has had the following severe impairments: neck
pain due to multilevel cervical and thoracic spine
degenerative disc disease (DDD/spondylosis) (Exhibits 8F;
10F; 13F; 14F; 48F); lower back pain due to degenerative
changes (Exhibit 45F); history of cerebral infarct/TIA, with
reported ongoing transient cerebral ischemia (Exhibits 19F;
20F; 23F; 24F; 33F; 37F; 42F); history of major
depression/bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, and possible
schizophrenia spectrum/other psychotic disorder (Exhibits 3F;
4F; 16F; 22F; 43F)(20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
4. Since the alleged onset date of disability, May 1, 2015,
the claimant has not had an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526,
416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that since May 1, 2015, the claimant has
the residual functional capacity to perform light work as
defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) with further
limitations as follows: Additional limitations include only
occasional climbing of ramps and stairs, balancing, stooping,
kneeling, crouching, crawling, but never climbing ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds. Mentally, the claimant's ability to
use judgment in making work-related decisions is limited to
making only simple work-related decisions with no sudden or
tools, work processes, or work settings, and if there are
workplace changes, they are introduced gradually. In
addition, the work is limited to that which does not require
satisfaction of strict or rigid production quotas or involve
assembly-line pace work with only occasional interactions
with the general public.
6. Since May 1, 2015, the claimant has been unable to perform
any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. Prior to the established disability onset date, the
claimant was an individual closely approaching advanced age.
On February 27, 2017, the claimant's age category changed
to an individual of advanced age (20 CFR 404.1563 and
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).
9. Prior to February 27, 2017, transferability of job skills
is not material to the determination of disability because
using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a
finding that the claimant is “not disabled”
whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills.
Beginning on February 27, 2017, the claimant has not been
able to ...