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Gorman v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

September 5, 2018

TIMOTHY C. GORMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH S. VAN, BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Timothy C. Gorman seeks judicial review of the Social Security Commissioner's decision denying him disability benefits, and asks this Court to remand the case. For the reasons below, this Court remands the ALJ's decision.

         A. Overview of the Case

         Plaintiff alleges that he became disabled on January 23, 2013. (R. at 165.) His date last insured (“DLI”) is June 30, 2015. (R. at 173.) Plaintiff used to work at a steel mill, but has not worked since 2008. (R. at 51.) Plaintiff previously met a listing entitling him to disability, but after a little over a year, he no longer met the listing, so Plaintiff re-applied for disability. (R. at 41-42.) After a hearing on his new application, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that Plaintiff suffered from severe physical impairments and from non-severe anxiety. (R. at 20- 21.) However, the ALJ concluded that he could perform jobs that existed in significant numbers. (R. at 28.) Therefore, the ALJ denied him benefits. (R. at 29.) This decision became final when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (R. at 1.)

         B. Standard of Review

         This Court has authority to review the Commissioner's decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Court will ensure that the ALJ built an “accurate and logical bridge” from evidence to conclusion. Thomas v. Colvin, 745 F.3d 802, 806 (7th Cir. 2014). This requires the ALJ to “confront the [plaintiff's] evidence” and “explain why it was rejected.” Thomas v. Colvin, 826 F.3d 953, 961 (7th Cir. 2016). The Court will uphold decisions that apply the correct legal standard and are supported by substantial evidence. Briscoe ex rel. Taylor v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 351 (7th Cir. 2005). Evidence is substantial if “a reasonable mind might accept [it] as adequate to support [the ALJ's] conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).

         C. Disability Standard

         The Commissioner follows a five-step inquiry in evaluating claims for disability benefits under the Social Security Act:

(1) whether the claimant is currently employed; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment; (3) whether the claimant's impairment is one that the Commissioner considers conclusively disabling; (4) if the claimant does not have a conclusively disabling impairment, whether he can perform his past relevant work; and (5) whether the claimant is capable of performing any work in the national economy.

Kastner v. Astrue, 697 F.3d 642, 646 (7th Cir. 2012).

         The claimant bears the burden of proof at every step except step five. Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir. 2000).

         D. Analysis

         Plaintiff presents several related arguments, but this case basically boils down to whether the ALJ properly handled Plaintiff's alleged need for a cane.[1] She did not.

         Plaintiff alleges that he has “a very bad sense of balance and walking.” (R. at 66.) He used a cane at the hearing and testified that he needs it due to balance and knee issues. (R. at 71.) He also brought the cane with him to a consultative examination, where he seemed to have no trouble walking, so long as he used the cane. (R. at 386.) A vocational expert testified at Plaintiff's hearing that he would be unemployable if he needs the cane. (R. at 88-89). Given that the decision only mentions the cane in passing, the ALJ appeared to take for granted that Plaintiff needs it. (R. at 26.) Yet, she did ...


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