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Kinder v. Berryhill

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

September 27, 2018

STANLEY R. KINDER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Stanley R. Kinder 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 May 1, 2011. (R. at 24.) His date last insured is September 30, 2015. (R. at 64.) Plaintiff worked as an iron worker from 1999 to 2008, before aggravation of symptoms from congestive heart failure. (R. at 65.) Additionally, plaintiff was able to work as a dorm representative, a mostly sedentary position, during a period of incarceration from July 2011 until October 29, 2012 (R.at 68.) After hearing Mr. Kinder's claim for disability based on anxiety, back pain, and Level III heart failure, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that plaintiff suffered from severe physical impairments relating to his heart disease. (R. at 24.) The ALJ did, however, find that a number of jobs existed which the plaintiff could perform. (R. at 43.) Based on a finding that other jobs exist which are within the plaintiff's residual functional capacity, the ALJ denied the claimant's disability benefit request on March 13, 2015. (R. at 44.)

         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

         To determine eligibility for disability benefits under the Social Security Act, the ALJ will perform a five-step inquiry:

“(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 burden of proof resides with the claimant for the first four steps, shifting to the Commissioner for determination of disability at step five. Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir. 2000).

         D. Analysis

         Plaintiff argues that proper weight was not assigned by the Administrative Law Judge to the treating physician's findings. Mr. Kinder's treating physician was Dr. Joyce Hubbard for most of his illness, including the period from November 2012 to February 26, 2014. (R. at 38.) During that period, Dr. Hubbard found that Mr. Kinder could sit for no more than four hours in an eight-hour work day and stand for no more than one hour. (R. at 205.)

         As the treating physician, Dr. Hubbard's opinion is entitled to controlling weight due to the greater duration and depth of the relationship ...


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